Skip to main content

Building Industrial Competence - Introduction

Welcome to the Hexagon blog series on Building Industrial Competence, where we recognize that employees are multifaceted individuals with unique capabilities extending beyond technical skills or job titles.

This series aims to tackle today's workforce challenges by applying the Whole Person Competence Development (WPCD) concept to competence frameworks for advancing digital transformation, Industry 4.0/Connected Plant and Connected Worker solution design and implementation.

Leveraging the WPCD approach can lead to a more engaged and empowered workforce, equipped to embrace modern technologies and new ways of working. Furthermore, WPCD fosters a culture of continuous learning, growth, and innovation by deploying a personalized development approach.

In this article, we introduce the concept of WPCD and its significance in building a competent and fully enabled workforce. By adopting a holistic approach to employee development, organizations can foster deeper levels of engagement, satisfaction, and personalization across their workforce. The WPCD emphasizes the importance of engaging and leveraging a person's entire being so that they can bring the best of who they are to everything they do. 

This approach goes beyond skills and knowledge to consider an individual's unique capabilities, allowing employees to develop their full potential and transferable personal attributes, which not only engage workers but serve as the distinctive predictors of superior performance.

Article #1 Whole Person Development to the Rescue

In a world that is becoming increasingly technology-connected, companies are losing human connections. 

The concept of whole-person competence development offers a compelling solution to today's workforce challenges.

WPCD represents a more sophisticated, personalized and higher-touch/concept approach for traditional employee development. It is built on the idea that employees are more than just their technical skills, but are indeed complex individuals that can bring multiple dimensions of themselves to their work to add greater value to the organization.

By investing in the development of the whole person, organizations can create a more engaged, satisfied, and growth-oriented workforce that is better equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern industrial environment. This approach not only benefits the employees themselves but also contributes to the overall success of the organization. When organizations create a work environment that values and supports the growth of each individual employee, it translates into a more engaged and productive workforce that leverages the four principles of the human condition, in that people are fallible, adaptable, social and driven by purpose and finding meaning. 

The Benefits of Whole Person Competence Development

Traditionally, competence development has focused on skill and knowledge transfer. Although these elements are important, they do not capture the complexity of human development. People respond better to a more personalized approach that is more distinctive and relevant to individual development within a standard context, and emphasize the importance of engaging and leveraging the whole person. This approach acknowledges that there is a spectrum of human abilities that predicts superior performance and recognizes the uniqueness of everyone. The benefits of whole-person competence development are numerous and can have a positive impact on both employers and employees.

  • For employers, whole-person competence development can lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce, resulting in increased productivity, higher retention rates and more positive workplace culture. The focus on whole-person competence development also helps employees develop an improved sense of purpose, relevance and meaning in their work, which can lead to greater job satisfaction and engagement. 
  • For employees, whole-person competence development can lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful career, as they are able to develop their full potential and personal attributes that are transferrable and serve as good predictors of superior performance. This approach can also serve as a better strategy for overall growth, self-actualization and employability. Especially as automation addresses dull, dirty, dangerous and demanding work.

Why Whole Person Competence Development is Important 

In a world where automation takes over dull, dirty, dangerous and demanding work, there has not been enough emphasis on what is needed to rejuvenate the appeal of the industry. Thus, for Gen Z’s, manufacturing is simply not presented as an appealing career choice.

Therefore, WPCD frameworks have become increasingly important. Advanced human centric capabilities and competence have become increasingly important, especially when research by companies such as McKinsey shows that high performers are 400% more productive than average performers. A greater focus on individual development as a value proposition is needed to enable a sustainable supply of talent that can dynamically adapt to the changing needs of the industry. 

The simple truth is that traditional competence development focused on skill and knowledge is   transactional from a development perspective and not transformational to the individual. Although these elements are important, they play more to the organization and do not capture the full complexity of the investment in the development and evolution of the individual human asset. This is especially critical in manufacturing industries, where work has long been considered dull, dirty, dangerous, and demanding.

As manufacturing organizations struggle with talent issues, they are becoming more aware of how factors related to the human condition at work must be addressed. As organizations scramble for solutions, they need to introduce new job models that are fit for the times and shift from the four D’s to the four M’s. Instead of dull, dirty, dangerous, and demanding work, the industry must design jobs that can be more personalized to workers in terms of being more Meaningful, Mindful, Motivating, and Moral[1].

How Whole Person Competence Development Impacts Organizational Culture 

Research has shown that people respond better to more personalized approaches that are more distinctive and relevant to their individual wants and needs. More personalized approaches send a message that employers recognize and value that their people offer more than a framework of standardized skills and knowledge. In terms of performance and competence, it is clear that distinctive or superior performance comes from what top performers do more of and do with greater success than average performers. Furthermore, companies that prioritize employee development, engagement, and empowerment are more likely to have happier and more productive employees. 

Defining Whole Person Competence Development 

The whole-person approach to employee development goes beyond skills and knowledge to consider a person's behaviors, motives, traits, attitudes, self-image, and social role. Each of these elements plays a role in shaping a person's ability to perform their job, contribute to the organization's success, and grow in ways that are more impactful and transferrable. 

Behaviors refer to the actions a person takes in response to a particular situation. By understanding an employee's behaviors, one can identify areas for improvement and provide targeted coaching to help them develop more effective responses. 

  • Motives are the underlying reasons why a person does what they do. By understanding and developing employees’ motives, one can align their goals with the organization's objectives and create a sense of purpose that drives their engagement and motivation. 
  • Traits are enduring characteristics that shape a person's personality and behavior. By understanding an employee's traits, one can identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies to capitalize on them while minimizing the impact of their weaknesses. 
  • Attitudes refer to a person's mindset and beliefs. By understanding an employee's attitude, one can identify any negative or limiting beliefs that may hold them back and provide support to help them overcome these obstacles. 
  • Self-image refers to how a person perceives themselves. By understanding an employee's self-image, one can identify any areas where they may lack confidence or self-esteem and provide targeted support to help them build their self-image and improve their performance. 
  • Social roles refer to the expectations and norms associated with a person's position within an organization. By understanding an employee's social role, you can help them navigate the complex social dynamics of the workplace and develop the people’s skills needed to succeed. 

By adopting a whole-person approach to employee development, organizations can create a more personalized, higher-touch, and higher-concept experience for employees that aligns with driving individuality and refined performance. Rather than treating workers as interchangeable with a set of specified skills and knowledge, organizations can harness a deeper understanding of human attributes that deliver better results within the organization’s unique context. 


In today's rapidly changing job market, organizations must recognize the value that each person can bring to their jobs and work communities. A more personalized approach to individual development is critical to address challenges such as low engagement, high turnover rates, and advancing human conditions. Investing in the development of the whole person sends a message to employees that the organization values and supports their individual growth, leading to increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, company brand loyalty, retention and employability. By focusing on the spectrum of attributes that impact performance, organizations can build development programs that address a wider range of performance variables, leading to more personalized and impactful learning experiences and leverage the power of a broader range of human capabilities.

More content in this series:


1.  Meaningful work: Meaningful work refers to work that has a sense of purpose and contributes to something greater than oneself. When employees feel that their work is meaningful, they are more engaged, satisfied, and productive. Employers can create a sense of meaningful work by aligning employees' job duties with the company's mission and values, providing opportunities for skill development and growth, and recognizing and rewarding employees' contributions.

Mindful work: Mindful work involves intellectual challenge and growth-oriented activities in an environment that is psychologically safe to speak up, express their opinions, and take risks without fear of retaliation. When employees are engaged in work that requires them to think critically, solve complex problems, and feel safe to learn new skills, they are more likely to be satisfied with their work and motivated to improve their performance.

Motivating work: Motivating work refers to work that is engaging and inspires employees to do their best. When employees are motivated, they are more likely to be productive, creative, and committed to their work. Employers can create a motivating work environment by providing employees with autonomy and control over their work, setting challenging goals, and offering rewards and recognition for achievement.

Moral work: Moral work involves creating a work environment that is socially responsible and ethical. A socially responsible workplace not only considers its impact on society and the environment but also acts in accordance with ethical principles and values.

About the Author

Brent Kedzierski is an award-winning thought leader and innovator in the fields of Human Performance, Human-Centered Connected Worker Ecosystems, and the future of Industry. Throughout his career, he has consistently delivered groundbreaking insights and transformative contributions. Brent's expertise has earned recognition from respected publications like Harvard Business Press, Chief Learning Officer Magazine,, BBC News, and more. His webinars have been featured as "editor's picks of the year," and his podcast appearances consistently rank as "top-listened to" in the industry. Prior to becoming the Principle Industrial Strategist at Hexagon ($HXGBY), Brent spent nearly 25 years as Shell's veteran Global HR transformation strategist. Brent is a passionate advocate for advancing a set of progressive ideas for creating a more human centered approach to industry, human development, well-being, and sustainability.

Profile Photo of Brent Kedzierski