Whole Person Development – Capturing Descritionary Employee Value

It comes at no additional cost. Even though most people are hired based on their technical skills, their real value is in their inherent ability to problem solve, innovate, and create. These core capabilities are free of charge but by focusing on whole person development, organizations can leverage these capacties to create descritional customer value.


Who is the Whole Person?

Human beings have some astonishing capabilities. Every time a human DNA molecule splits, it replicates 2 billion digits of code. This replication process happens 3 billion times a day. We are amazing creatures, designed with unimaginable capacities for creativity and innovation. Yet too many organizations see employee development as a simple expense item and fail. This attitude fails to capitalize on the essential value that every human being has in abundance, the basic capacities for creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, when employee development focuses solely on developing professional skills and ignores whole-person development, they miss the best parts. However, the highest performing organizations recognize that people are whole human beings with unimaginable capacity, and they seek daily to develop these capabilities.

The Failure of Whole Person Development

It was an astounding admission from an institution of higher education. A first-time manager received an eight-hour course in management. It was virtually all focused on the HR rules surrounding sexual harassment and diversity training, how to fill out the various forms, and processes for hiring and firing. There was nothing that would ensure her success. Consequently, it is understandable why someone accused her of creating a toxic work environment.

Unfortunately, this is not an outlier. It is more often the norm. Reports that only 39% of all first-time managers receive any training, and fewer receive any mentoring or coaching. Furthermore, reports Harvard, Stanford, and the McKinsey Company indicate the leadership training fails to achieve any organizational return on the investment. One of the primary reasons is because entrenched institutionalized systems will not allow it.

The Value of Whole Person Development


Whole person development

During an interview with an elementary school principle I heard her talk about developing the “whole person” of her team. When I asked a confirming question she responded, “of course why would I want half a teacher walking in my door?” The same could be said of a carpenter, software developer, lawyer, judge, or automotive assembly worker. The result of this perspective on this elementary school? Within five years it had gone from failing to the highest performing school in the district. In delivering the highest customer value, this school principal began with her teachers

The solution

Capturing the value of whole-person development means more than a few inspiring speeches about people overcoming enormous obstacles to achieve their goals. During my research into how high-performing organizations approach leadership, I found that they first design a system or a kind of organizational DNA. Part of these systems is how every leader is trained to execute designed processes for employee development. However, employee development is not just about developing professional skills. These high performing organizations have learned that to capture their employees’ full human capacity, they must tailor their training and coaching to the whole person. In this way, they capture the full breadth of human capacity and opportunity. This focus on developing the whole person is not a statement of morality. High performing organizations see something else, value. They see value in developing the whole person. When they create a healthier, more self-confident human being, they create a workforce of more value. This value is then transferred to and their customers. This new value comes along free of charge.

Innovating Leadership is a Requirement

However, there is a caveat. For an organization to implement employee development of the whole person, every leader and manager must know exactly how to do this. This means that leadership must be understood as a designed organizational system rather than a collection of lone individuals leading based on personal values. “My team, my way, my rules” is no longer a valid way of leading.

In researching high impact organizations, the one major difference I noticed between them and average organizations as an obsession with value. While customer value is the obvious result, these high impact organizations deliver high value products and services by first capturing the full value of their people. This means developing the whole person and not just the professional bits.

Dan Edds is the author of Leveraging the Genetics of Leadership, cracking the code of sustainable team performance. He can be reached for comment at Dan@DanielEdds.com, and he is happy to take a personal phone call at (425) 269-8854