Why Comp Professionals Quit [Blog + Video]

Why Comp Professionals Quit [Blog + Video]

Around February and March every year, employers see an exodus of compensation professionals—and maybe you’re seeing the revolving doors, too?

For the most part, this isn’t a rash decision your comp pro has made over the last couple weeks; they’ve likely been ruminating on it since last year, when they got a sneak peek into this year’s trajectory for hiring and pay increases and bonuses, to name a few.

Once this year’s bonus arrived, they began investigating new opportunities elsewhere or were already halfway out the door.

So why do compensation professionals quit—and what can you as an HR leader do about it? Here’s a look into the mind of a comp person, and some tips on how to address their concerns so you can all do your best work going forward.

5 Reasons Compensation Pros Quit

The compensation team plays a critical role in ensuring fair and competitive compensation within an organization. As a comp pro myself, I’ve seen how our unique visibility and access into the most important (and sensitive) areas of a business—compensation and merit pay—contributes to burnout and turnover.

The most frequent and recurring reasons behind why comp pros leave their employers are:

1. There’s a lack of communication around why they make what they make.

Your comp pros have access to all your organization’s compensation data, as well as access to industry data comparing their salaries to those of their peers. Not only that, comp professionals have seen the data before anyone else on your team.

Knowing this information without having any context to back it up is difficult for comp pros.

Unfortunately, leadership and HR often don’t realize this, and many don’t communicate with their comp team about it in a timely manner (if at all). Comp pros see the data and then are forced to sit with it, wondering why they get paid what they get paid, for months at a time until someone communicates with them about it and answers questions. We’re just like any other human—we want to know why we were paid what we were paid and how we can improve it!

In companies where there is no communication or transparency around pay, an even more dire situation occurs—a comp pro sees what everyone else makes, gets no feedback on their own performance or potential growth, and feels slighted.

This festers, until eventually, your dissatisfied comp pro is done. If your company is doing this, you’ve been warned: Your comp pro is probably looking for a new job.

How To Address This Scenario

As an HR leader, make an effort to communicate with your compensation professional before they see their increase. Clearly explain the reasoning behind the increase or bonus. If it’s lower than they would expect—or lower than that of their peers—they need to know why. Additionally, don’t assume that a healthy increase doesn’t require an explanation! They’ll want to understand your thinking there, too.

Some comp pros may be hesitant to speak up, so be proactive in your communication.

2. They don’t feel the company is on a healthy trajectory.

As far back as last fall, your comp pros knew the fiscal health of your company—its hiring plans, details about the next budget cycle, and whether or not benchmarks for the year were met. If the data revealed any warning signs, they might consider applying for other jobs, “quietly quit,” or start networking and plan for a late winter/spring departure based on your company’s health.

How To Address This Scenario

Step up and clearly communicate your company’s fiscal position earlier—especially with people who already have access to the data. In some cases, it is what it is, and you may simply have to accept losing these employees.

3. Their style and strengths no longer align with the position.

Some compensation pros quit their jobs because they no longer feel aligned with their position in the company, or with the company culture overall. Maybe they lean more toward the legal-side—having a rigid mentality for what comp and merit pay should look like and how it should be enacted within an organization; other comp professionals are more like teachers, who can shape and maneuver leaders into understanding their perspectives.

In my opinion, an employee who recognizes this and chooses to leave is making a good move for both themselves and the employer. The work of a comp pro contributes heavily to company culture, and if they aren’t a good fit, resigning may be the best option.

How To Address This Scenario

If your comp pro has given this reason for leaving, you’re fortunate.

All you can do here is continue to maintain open communication around the expectations for their role and their current feelings about those expectations. Some common misalignments I see, and that HR pros should be aware of:

  • The organization’s industry or structure isn’t a good cultural fit for the comp pro. For example, a comp person who enjoys taking a creative, incentive-oriented approach to compensation won’t be happy in a role that requires a basic, by-the-book approach.
  • The leadership isn’t a good fit for the comp pro. Some CEOs make unilateral decisions about compensation regardless of the comp team’s recommendations. Capable comp professionals may feel like the work they’ve done is disregarded; once it’s time for final decisions, CEOs have the final say that may or may not take into account what a comp pro’s recommended.
  • The comp pro isn’t able to remove themself emotionally from the decisions being made about comp. Recommendations should be right for the business—not for an individual employee (or comp professional). Typically, this isn’t a huge issue for comp pros, but if you’re recognizing a comp pro who is emotionally attached to the decisions, there may be misalignment you need to address.
  • The comp pro’s title or experience level is exaggerated or inaccurate, either from title fraud at your organization or from a previous position. This leads to misalignment when the hire can’t fulfill the duties of the role you’ve hired them to fill.

By identifying where the misalignment has occurred, you can better understand if the existing employee relationship can be salvaged and improved. If it cannot be salvaged, the knowledge you’ve gained will inform your next hiring decision. Understanding your organization’s structure and leadership style will help you find a comp pro who’s a great fit for your company in every way.

4. They don’t see a path to growth.

Sometimes comp pros get pigeonholed as the “data geeks” of the company and they aren’t given other opportunities to grow and expand their capabilities. I’ve seen comp pros leave companies they were otherwise happy with just because leadership didn’t recognize their desire to evolve beyond their current job description, nor was there talk of any growth opportunities.

How To Address This Scenario

Have open conversations with your employees about more than just their compensation. Ask in every annual review (if not more frequently) how your comp people envision their work, what responsibilities they would like to take on, and if there are any additional roles or duties they are interested in.

5. They’ve found better opportunities elsewhere.

In case you missed it, HR Executive magazine named compensation pros among 2024’s hottest jobs! That means there are lots of opportunities available should someone decide to explore them.

Sometimes, through networking or life events, comp pros simply choose to change their paths. Especially early in the year, companies know they need to hire a comp pro and are searching. They may reach out to potential candidates to gauge interest, even if those candidates are not necessarily actively looking for a new job.

How To Address This Scenario

In some cases, there’s nothing you can do to prevent someone from moving to another job. If your team is already having open compensation conversations, keeping track of performance and annual reviews, and providing opportunities for growth, you’re likely doing all you can to create a good work environment. Sometimes you simply have to accept that an employee has found another employer they prefer to work for, and that’s OK!

By the way, I’m a comp professional who has quit more than one job in my career—watch the video to hear about my own experiences!

You want to prevent your comp pro from leaving—but should you?

Most company owners and executives think the best answer is always to keep employees from leaving in order to avoid attrition. I disagree—the only reason companies should attempt to retain employees is if those comp pros actually feel connected to the organization’s culture.

Comp drives culture, and if your comp pro isn’t mirroring your culture (or what you want your culture to look like) or has a vision that’s misaligned with your company’s values, it is desirable for them to go somewhere else. As a leader, your job is to figure out what’s better for them and for your company.

If you know your comp pro is considering leaving, talk through their perspective and determine if the relationship is still a good fit.

  • If you mutually agree that you’d both be better served by parting ways, go fearlessly in that direction. Have the hard conversations, figure out how to help the employee, and move on.
  • If a conversation yields action items that you, the employer, can take to increase their satisfaction with the job—and the comp pro wants to remain on your team—go in that direction.

A good employer will not only do what they can to retain employees, but they will also recognize when an employee has provided their maximum value and part ways with them.

End Your Revolving Door Of Comp Professionals With These Tools

The simplest and most cost-effective way to avoid hiring a new comp pro every February is to make sure you’re hiring the right type of comp pro from the outset and training them well. If you’re facing this issue every year, your hiring methods could be the root of your problems.


End your revolving door of comp professionals with MorganHR HireComp

The old, traditional methods of hiring a recruiter to find talent no longer work for comp—it’s easy to make a bad hire when all you have to go on are notes in a document.

If you need help finding a comp pro who will be a good fit for your business, let us help. We have a robust network of vetted comp pros, one of whom might be ideal for your company. Because we know these experts, their skill sets, and their strengths, we’re able to provide an honest assessment of who will mesh with your team, so neither you nor your comp pro will be stuck in a bad fit. We aim to help our clients know as much as they can about the people they’re hiring!

Learn more about HireComp’s specialized talent pipeline.


End your revolving door of comp professionals with MorganHR CompAware

You can help reduce turnover throughout your entire organization by giving managers the tools to follow the tips we’ve outlined in this article—they need to know how to talk to their employees about comp just as you talk to your HR people. Specifically for comp pros, who see the data before anyone else, it’s imperative to have a way to clearly and consistently communicate information about compensation and merit pay.

With our CompAware training program, leaders learn how to clearly and effectively discuss pay and performance in a way that inspires and motivates. These live, interactive 90-minute sessions are delivered virtually or in-person. Training can be delivered to individuals or teams. Curious to learn more? Visit our CompAware page.

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About the Author: Laura Morgan

As a founder and owner of MorganHR, Inc., Laura Morgan has been helping organizations to identify and solve their business problems through the use of innovative HR programs and technology for more than 30 years. Known as a hands-on, people-first HR leader, Laura specializes in the design and implementation of compensation programs as well as programs that support excellence in the areas of performance management, equity, wellness, and more.