The Whole Human Talent Strategy and How It Works

For many years, businesses have stuck to traditional approaches of employee performance evaluations. They focused on what an employee did at work, including whether people clocked in on time, performed their duties adequately, and didn’t make trouble. Some people were on the fast track to promotion, while others were stuck in their positions for decades before retirement.

Whole Person Model tracking behaviors in leadership, collaboration, change, and impact on others.

That may have worked in the past, but now, we understand that employees are more than their productivity. 

People from anywhere in an organization can become leaders, inspiring their coworkers to greater heights. As more companies adopt work-from-home models and the line between work and life blurs, it’s time to employ a new talent strategy—one that looks at employees as people, not just workers. This is where the Whole Human Talent Strategy comes into play.

What Is the Whole Person Model?

The Whole Human Talent Strategy also known as the Whole Person Model, or WPM, is a holistic approach to measuring employee behaviors and tracking their growth over time. Created by BetterUp, this model was put together by an expert team focused on leadership development and psychology, using billions of employee data points. 

By measuring an employee as a whole human, businesses can see which behaviors positively impact overall performance and drive change throughout the organization. 

The Whole Person Model tracks behaviors that:

  • Can be changed
  • Affect others
  • Are linked to performance, collaboration, well-being, and leadership

By including factors that occur outside of work, like sleep, for example, the WPM uncovers potential issues with active solutions instead of just asking employees to do better. In doing so, it covers a critical gap that traditional employee evaluations missed. 

Doctors and psychologists have long found that sleep deprivation negatively impacts employee health and job performance. This can be dangerous in jobs where employees are involved in strenuous activities or operating heavy machinery. Even in office jobs, sleep deprivation can lead to a lack of motivation and poor decision-making. 

By using the WPM, employees and managers can come up with solutions to alleviate or prevent sleep deprivation, like reducing work hours or allowing the employee to occasionally work from home to reduce commuting time. 

The Benefits of the Whole Human Talent Strategy

Research by BetterUp Labs has found that organizations tend to undervalue some of the top predictors of employee productivity and performance. Traditional leadership and assessment methods don’t account for these predictors, so the training that comes with them rarely has a lasting impact. 

Here’s how the whole human talent strategy helps change that:

An Effective Evaluation of Employee Strengths and Weaknesses

The purpose of the Whole Person Model is to pinpoint the areas where your employees excel and where they can improve. Sometimes, employees don’t know what’s causing their lack of motivation or how to develop a growth mindset. With a holistic model like this one, management and employees alike can understand how to make things better. 

Many leadership approaches today also overlook an important factor in developing leaders who can sustain high-performance work year after year, particularly in the face of uncertainty: the psychological resources needed to continually learn and stay socially responsive. 

Depending on the individual, those resources could be earning continuing education credits from listening to podcasts, attending events or meetups, taking online courses, or arranging for on-the-job training or shadowing with a designated mentor. 

Better Results

Unlike other leadership strategies, WPM assessments provide personalized plans for each employee. It involves understanding exactly what motivates them and how to provide useful coaching that will get the best results. 

Instead of having everyone take company-wide training on topics that may not be relevant to them, WPM allows employees to learn in ways that work for them. 

For example, some people may be visual learners and not get much out of podcasts or auditory training. With a personalized learning plan, managers would ensure that video courses or in-person training are available and accessible, since the employee learns more effectively from them.

In addition, sending someone to training on a subject they already know well can waste everyone’s time. With a WPM assessment, a personalized plan points to the areas where an employee needs to concentrate.  

WPM isn’t a one-time thing; it continually reevaluates the employee’s growth over time, tailoring the coaching to better fit their needs as they progress. 

Finding Organization-Wide Trends

Employees begin by taking a WPM assessment to establish a baseline for their characteristics. All of the information from these assessments is reported anonymously to a management dashboard.

This allows you to see where people are starting and the real-time impact of WPM as it works. You’ll also see behavior insights to let you extrapolate performance with baseline results for each team according to your industry and their leadership levels. 

For example, you might notice that the baseline results for your Research and Development Department’s non-managerial employees are low compared to other data points within your industry. That could suggest that hiring managers aren’t considering leadership or providing adequate resources and motivation for workers to develop leadership skills. 

These benchmarks help you track an employee’s advancement and understand how to invest in other learning and development opportunities at the organizational level.

Improve Morale

When employees don’t have opportunities for growth, it can lead to general discontent or lower their morale and productivity. On the other hand, if workers feel appreciated for their efforts and know that multiple avenues of learning exist to help them improve their skills, they’re more likely to apply themselves and feel satisfied. 

The Components of the Whole Human Talent Strategy

There are three primary components of this whole human strategy: mindsets, behaviors, and outcomes. 


Mindsets are the goals, beliefs, and emotions that drive individuals to achieve optimal performance. This might include optimism, self-awareness, and having a growth-oriented goal. Mindsets are an important part of the Whole Person Model because all human behavior stems from mindsets. 

Having a more positive mindset can impact employees in numerous ways. For example, a worker may lack confidence because they often engage in negative self-talk. By changing their mindset, they can reduce that self-talk and build up their confidence in a healthy, positive manner. 

Negative factors that a business wants to discourage likely arise from harmful mindsets. This can include things like anger management issues, harassment, or a lack of motivation. These can be mitigated or corrected once the employee and their managers recognize them. 


Any kind of employee evaluation, including the Whole Person Model, looks primarily at what the worker is doing and how well they’re doing it. Recognizing positive and negative behaviors is necessary to encourage workers to improve their productivity. 

Behaviors have two subcategories: thriving and inspiring. 

Thriving behaviors support personal growth in all areas of work and life. This includes cognitive, emotional, social, and physical aspects. These involve how much sleep someone gets, their ability to focus, how appropriately they regulate their emotions, and how effective they are at strategic planning.

Inspiring behaviors help employees to empower others to perform at their best, whether in formal or informal leadership positions. These include helping or guiding others, inspiring coworkers, and working well in teams.


Outcomes are the end results of supportive behaviors and mindsets. This includes increased productivity, job satisfaction, and team engagement. These outcomes can also be measured. The employee can get feedback by bringing in team members, managers, and subordinates to evaluate how well they’re performing. 

Outcomes are the final aspect of the Whole Person Model because employers can see the results of mindsets and their associated behaviors. The combination of a positive mindset and continuous examples of thriving and inspiring behaviors—like bringing a healthy breakfast to work each morning and informally encouraging team members with optimism at the start of the day—demonstrates how all aspects of a person impact work-related outcomes. 

How To Implement Each Component

The Whole Person Model features several components that must be thoughtfully implemented throughout the workplace. Below are tips for getting started with each aspect of the WPM. 

Determine Employee Mindsets

The first step in implementing the Whole Person Method is starting with a baseline. Employees will need to fill out surveys answering questions about their health, daily habits, goals, personal motivations, and more. 

This information will allow the organization to tailor a learning plan for the individual, playing to their strengths and focusing on realistic solutions for their weaknesses. 

Once mindsets have been determined, coaches can take specific steps to mitigate or prevent harmful ones from taking root. Lack of motivation, for example, may be mitigated by helping the employee take more ownership of their work, gain additional responsibilities, take on projects they find more interesting, or get more involved with other areas of the company. 

Set Up Individual Learning Sessions

Once an employee has been assessed, their coach will sit down with them and decide on a development plan based on their learning strengths. This will help improve leadership skills and allow an employee to work on areas where they may be lacking in experience or skill, like managing stress, working more efficiently, or lifestyle changes.

Examine and Record Behaviors

After employees and their mentors set up actionable steps in their individual learning sessions, it’s up to the employees to record their behaviors. This could be as simple as accounting for how many hours of sleep they get each night. This allows them to get a better grasp of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to record the steps they’re taking to improve their skills. 

Ongoing Accountability

Periodic check-ins with a mentor are key to continuous learning and strengthening leadership skills. These meetings can also include colleagues and subordinates to get feedback from all levels within the organization. 

When people know they’ll be held accountable by someone else, they’re more likely to complete or progress in their goals. Plus, as an employee achieves their goal, they’ll need to make new, more ambitious goals to keep the ball rolling toward their best selves.

Best Practices in Whole Human Talent Strategy

When it comes to implementing a whole human talent strategy, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. These will facilitate the learning atmosphere within your company and make it easier for employees to improve their leadership skills.

Create Safe Learning Spaces

One of the most important aspects of learning is having a safe space to do it. People learn better when they aren’t constantly worried that getting something wrong will cost them their relationship with management.

It’s up to the organization to create learning spaces where employees feel safe enough to ask questions and make mistakes. These learning spaces can be Slack channels, open forums, or anywhere where people feel able to speak their minds without worry. 

Team-Wide Check-Ins

The best team-building strategy is getting members to spend more time together, discussing their work and any challenges or successes associated with it. Weekly stand-ups or check-ins between team members and between employees and managers help build trust and understanding.

If a team member faces a challenge and brings it up during the check-in, another member may have some advice. This doesn’t just improve the first employee’s productivity; it also gives the second employee a chance to flex their leadership skills and demonstrate their strength or experience. 

Let People Live Their Lives

Remember that the workers within your organization are only human. Use this opportunity to build empathy and bonds of trust between colleagues. 

When you remember that you’re working with another human, you’re able to extend more grace, patience, and forgiveness. Whether you’re working with people remotely or not, making allowances for an individual’s life outside of their career will improve your relationships and make them feel appreciated and understood. 

Focus on Strengths

Plenty of job assessments look at weaknesses or areas where employees can improve. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can make employees self-conscious, upset, or otherwise embarrassed about having those things constantly pointed out. In using a Whole Person Model, the focus is on a worker’s strengths.

When workers are complimented on their strengths and given opportunities to lean into them, they’ll naturally develop other skills. Focusing on strengths boosts self-confidence and improves productivity. 


No matter what your company aims to do, a Whole Person Model of employee assessment is key. Its holistic focus on the individual can improve efficiency and productivity, increase diversity and inclusivity, and help your workers reach their full potential. 

By analyzing specific employees as people and considering aspects of their personal lives and health that happen outside of work hours, you can help your workers feel better about their job performance and their lives.

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