North Carolina’s Rho Looks at Untapped Talent Pools to Fill Jobs at Growing CRO

Published: Apr 18, 2016

North Carolina’s Rho Looks at Untapped Talent Pools to Fill Jobs at Growing CRO
April 18, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Driven by an infusion of new and repeat business, as well as funding from a federal grant, contract research organization Rho is in the process of hiring for 30 new positions.

The company, which has been around since 1984, will expand to more than 400 employees this year, an 8 percent bump. Rho currently has about 380 employees.

This week, company representatives are talking with potential candidates during the Association of Clinical Research Professionals conference in Atlanta. But that’s not the only place the company is looking for potential employees. With a shrinking talent pool, Kay Lowery, a human resources service leader at Rho, told BioSpace , that the company is looking for candidates in previously untapped areas, including beyond the borders of North Carolina and at traditionally black colleges and universities. Some of those being hired outside of the state are able to make arrangements to work remotely from their current locations as well. Lowery said the company is working hard to find “hidden gems” who can work for Rho.

Being located in North Carolina is attractive to potential employees with its pleasant weather throughout most of the year, strong school and university systems, and proximity to beaches and mountains.

“A lot of the wonderful assets in North Carolina are big selling points,” Lowery said.

Recently, North Carolina’s attractiveness as a place to work has been called into question with passage of a controversial law dubbed HB2 that has been criticized for being discriminatory against transgender people. The law could be a sticking point for some potential candidates. However, Lowery said Rho has a long history of diversity inclusiveness. That spirit of inclusion includes providing benefits to the domestic partners of employees. The company also fosters internal special interest clubs for employees, which includes an LGBT group, Lowery said.

“We’re focused on diversity and want to make sure people feel included,” she said. Last year, Rho was recognized by the Triangle Business Journal as one of the best contract research organizations in the RTP area. Rho was one of 15 companies touted by the Journal for being an industry leader in the RTP area. That recognition is also another attractive point for potential candidates, Lowery said.

While Rho is in the midst of enjoying a period of solid growth, the company has remained stable, which also helps attract new employees, Lowery said. She said the growth at Rho has not been due to M&A activity but has been organic, which is something that candidates tell her is appealing.

“A lot of the candidates are excited about our stability,” Lowery said. “They see it as a place to come and grow their careers all while working in a stable environment.”

That stability has also spilled over into employee retention, which Brook White, director of corporate communications at Rho, said is much higher than the industry average. White said more than 50 percent of the current 380 employees have been at Rho for more than five years.

“Our turnover is much lower than the industry standard,” White said.

Part of that low turnover may be due to the company culture Rho has developed. In addition to the inclusiveness at Rho, they have created flexible working arrangements that allow employees to enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Lowery said they provide several nice amenities at work, including standup desks and treadmill desks, which allow employees to get in a cardio workout while they work. Rho also offers professional and personal development programs, which includes a business book-of-the-month discussion with Laura Helms Reece, Rho’s chief executive officer.

According to the company’s website, Rho is hiring for multiple positions, including clinical data manager, clinical research associates, clinical team lead, project managers, statistical programmer and biostatistician. In addition to the scientific positions, Rho is also hiring for administrative roles as well, including human resources generalist and IT project manager.

The hiring at Rho is built on the back of the work the company has participated in, including a recent clinical trial studying early peanut consumption and development of an allergy. The trial results found that “children who consumed peanut-containing foods regularly from infancy to age five and then avoided peanut for one year did not become allergic to peanut,” the company said in a statement earlier this month. The results of the study indicate early peanut consumption has long-lasting benefits, Rho said. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Rho has won a number of federal contracts, including a $4.2 million contract from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The one-year contract includes four, one-year options with a total estimated ceiling of $21.9 million, the company said. In September 2015, Rho was awarded a seven-year, $16.5 million contract from the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to provide clinical research in the areas of asthma and allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases, and transplantation.

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