HR’s ‘Big Stay’: Why fewer HR pros plan to look for a new job this year

Last year, the “Big Stay” emerged as the latest employee retention trend, with Americans quitting their jobs in fewer numbers—a stark contrast to the “Great Resignation” of 2021-22. Now, HR professionals are joining that movement in a big way.

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Fewer than a third (31%) of HR professionals plan to look for a new job in the next six months, down from 56% in July, according to a recent Robert Half survey. That decline is larger than in tech, accounting and finance, and administrative and customer service; meanwhile, respondents in the marketing and creative industry and legal profession reported a greater likelihood of leaving their jobs.

Factors driving employee retention among HR professionals

What’s driving this dramatic shift in the retention of HR practitioners? Primarily, experts say, there are two catalysts: economic concerns and greater job satisfaction.

According to Glassdoor’s Employee Confidence Index released Monday, the percentage of HR pros reporting a positive six-month business outlook fell to 52.8% in February from 65% a year ago. This downward trend was the largest among the 24 industries examined.

Glassdoor Employee Confidence Index
Glassdoor Employee Confidence Index

“Lower employee confidence leaves employees stuck between a rock and a hard place. Anxious employees are likely keeping an eye on outside opportunities, but at the same time, economic anxiety is leading many employees to hunker down and prioritize job security,” says Daniel Zhao, lead economist at Glassdoor, tells HRE.

Daniel Zhao
Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor

HR has been particularly affected by this lack of optimism, given significant job cuts in many HR departments, particularly to recruiting teams, which HR itself had to carry out, Zhao says. For example, Meta’s talent acquisition team took a larger layoff hit than other parts of the company last year because the tech giant anticipates hiring fewer people in 2024, Forbes reports.

Although HR professionals reported the biggest drop in positive business outlook, they still have a more optimistic view than the average across industries: 45.1%.

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“It means that HR employees are more confident than employees in at least half of the other industries,” says Brad Bell, strategic human resources professor and director for the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at Cornell University.

Experts say that employee retention among HR practitioners may also be on the rise because of increased job satisfaction.

Brad Bell, Cornell, HR priorities
Brad Bell, Cornell University

“Typically, employees’ intention to look for a new job serves as an indicator of their dissatisfaction with their current job,” Bell says. “It suggests that employees in HR are more satisfied with their current roles and therefore not planning to look for something new.”

Through its survey, Robert Half found people, including HR professionals, are feeling better about where they work due to better compensation, culture or their overall work situation post-COVID, such as their ability to work in a hybrid arrangement, says Rob Hosking, executive director of Robert Half’s administrative and customer support practice.

He notes employers increased compensation levels during the Great Resignation, though wages are currently starting to flatten out as employers do not face as much pressure to continue raising them.

Although salary increases are not in the lofty double digits that some employers doled out a few years ago, some HR salaries in 2024 are expected to top the 3.8% to 4% experts predict for the overall workforce. A director of total rewards, for example, is expected to earn an average of $125,250 this year, up 4.6% from last year, according to Robert Half data. And a compensation/total rewards analyst is expected to make $57,750 in 2024, up 6.4% from a year ago.

Rob Hosking
Rob Hosking, Robert Half

While HR practitioners are indicating they’ll stay put this year if they do ultimately seek a new job, they stand a good chance of getting hired quickly, says Hosking. Last year, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.3%, but only 1.7% for HR managers and 2.9% for HR assistants.

“HR is one of those areas where many functions in HR sit below the national average for unemployment,” says Hosking. “That indicates there continues to be demand for HR professionals and that skill set.”

Dawn Kawamoto, Human Resource Executive
Dawn Kawamoto
Dawn Kawamoto is HR Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist who has covered technology business news for such publications as CNET and has covered the HR and careers industry for such organizations as Dice and Built In prior to joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected] and below on social media.