Getting Ahead on a Budget (Part 2): Teaching, Learning, and Employee Growth

How internal development can drive engagement



Colin McMahon


As we enter 2021 and a vaccine finally starts to circulate the world, it is time for businesses to look ahead at how they will re-establish themselves as they move past COVID-19. Given the economic hardships created by the pandemic, outfitting a successful company can be more challenging than ever before. Join us as we explore alternative ways to attract and retain talent in this Keypoint Intelligence blog series, Getting Ahead on a Budget.


In a recent podcast, Keypoint Intelligence CEO Mack Brothers said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. In his assertion, Brothers pointed to what he saw as a primary source of frustration among disengaged workers, which was the feeling that their personal growth did not matter. There’s been a good deal of research to back him up. 


Some studies have found that as little as 15% of employees are consistently engaged with their work. Data collected in 2019 from companies with 50-500 employees showed that more managers (63%) stated that retaining talent was harder than hiring it. Indeed, this speaks to a broader trend, which has dominated not just print but practically every industry for more than a decade: employees do not stay on with the same company for very long. They work for a few years, add some experience to the CV, and then move on.


This poses a special challenge for the print industry, which is rebuilding itself after the economic and personnel damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is (in part) because a larger than average percentage of the older population retired or left work during 2020, affecting older industries like print more than others. On the other side, print—especially certain subsegments like those that primarily worked with hospitality and leisure—have suffered greatly due to the economic downturn. The last option they have is to pay new talent with the same flexibility that other opportunities may provide.


Personal Growth as Incentive

At first glance, the idea of putting an individual before the company is counter-intuitive. After all, much of modern thought has centered around improvements to organizations at the wholistic level. We tend to write more about new systems, new technology, and how they can make everyone’s lives easier—but let’s go back to that initial comment from Brothers: “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” While experts have slightly differing definitions as to what exactly employee engagement is, they can all agree what it’s not—a disgruntled worker who does not feel like they have a future in their current role.


So, why don’t they feel like they have a future? Well, there can be a myriad of reasons behind this, but a large one is a lack of developmental training. Long-term research conducted by Middlesex University for Work Based Learning found that almost 75% of employees did not believe they were achieving their full potential at the workplace due to a lack of developmental opportunities.


Source: Iterators


It is important to remember that the competitive nature of business does not just exist at the corporate level. Employees feel the same push to be better, stand out from their competition, and advance to reach their objectives. As such, it is very logical that an employee who does not feel like they are growing would grow frustrated at their current position and look for a way to alter their fortunes. If that requires leaving the job for another, so be it. The competitive realities of the 21st century not only expect this, they demand it.


To combat this, companies must be in a place to offer their employees constant opportunities for growth, even if an immediate salary reward is not always possible. Workers cannot be pushed down this path, but even just offering it would show that the company is aware of their hopes and wants them to succeed at a personal level.



A good employee development program will help colleagues know their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and help them identify areas of passion—even if they were previously unsure. This can help put the right people into opening positions, as employers will be sure that the new person in the position has an interest for it and enjoys the work.


Now it is true that employee growth may lead some talent away, but this is no reason to shun the process entirely. In fact, it is very possible that the employee (even one whose real passion lies elsewhere) will stay longer than they otherwise would have, if only out of gratitude.


All of this ties back into the first piece in this series: treating the employee not just like a person but as an equal, believing they are there not just to make money but because they want to be. While financial circumstances can propel anyone into any job, many enter a workplace with at least certain aligned interests. These interests can be cultivated with professional development—bringing out dedicated, engaged workers and helping to retain talent at a crucial time.


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Getting Ahead on a Budget (Part 1): Flexible Working Conditions