Many say you'll get paid more these days if you go into a STEM field. But it's not as clear as it sounds. In fact, some experts predict that advances in artificial intelligence will actually make liberal arts education more valuable. Thus, students would be better served in the long term with a more traditional liberal arts degree. This means that employers - and especially those in the tech space - will have to deal with a rapidly changing environment, and will have to help their employees grow with these changes while also staying happy.

YPO member Darryl Hicks has cracked this employee satisfaction formula. Hicks is the founder and CEO of FlexPay and Tungsten Revenue Consultants. Tungsten was recently named a Top 10 "Great Workplaces in Canada" among small businesses. Hicks is always looking to the future of his employees' happiness and searching for ways to keep them on the cutting edge.

Here is Hicks' approach to making sure the employees of today will still be happy employees in the future:

1. Adaptation Is the Only Solution

As the adage goes, you have to be willing to learn, unlearn, and relearn. For Hicks, this is true for leaders, too. "Even if your company doesn't feature a chameleon at the helm, adaptation can be learned, practiced, and eventually mastered by your entire team," he says. This is hardly an easy skill to acquire, but demonstrating buy-in from the top will encourage employee willingness, too.

2. Develop a Culture OS

"Take a structured approach to culture," Hicks instructs. He explains with a simile: "Just as a laptop or smartphone OS dictates your experience as a user, a company's 'culture OS' delivers a precise set of rules and instructions to dictate how a company moves and functions under challenging conditions." Make it something everyone in the company relies on. "When it's designed well, your culture OS becomes a playbook that's continuously trusted, consulted, and improved by every member of your team," he says. As the employee "user experience" improves, so will your company's financial health.

3. Puzzle Your Way to Performance

"Just like you'd begin putting together a puzzle, start with the edges first and then work towards the center," Hicks recommends. At Hicks' companies, management defined 4 core values that everyone in the companies strives to attain. "Once they're identified," he explains, "empower management to fill in the middle within that construct." This structure encourages the adaptability you're seeking, with key guidance coming from the top, and smaller teams implementing their own strategies.

4. Celebrate Selectively

According to Hicks, "What you choose to celebrate, you'll get more of." It's a positive reaffirmation of success, and a strategy leaders should use. "If you want productivity, celebrate productivity. If you want speed, celebrate speed. If you want innovation and creativity, celebrate innovation and creativity," he says. In your own company, consider what your most important goals are, and celebrate behavior and accomplishments that bring them closer.

5. Growth Champions Must Champion Growth

Hicks is adamant that leaders must give their people the training they need to become powerful and adaptable. "When our team needs to harness a bleeding-edge technology so we can move quickly on a lucrative opportunity, we invest in the training," Hicks explains. This also leads to a more adaptable workforce. "The most successful STEM teams are the ones who dip in and out of contract work," Hicks tells me. "They've learned to seize opportunities today, while staying nimble enough to jump on a new train tomorrow." Your culture OS will dictate when is needed, as well as who qualifies to obtain it.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Feb 23, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.