5 Tips for Engaging the Next Generation of Tech Talent
Briana Crabb

As companies and entire industries are transformed by digital innovation, the competition for tech talent continues to accelerate. You can ask leaders in nearly every thriving, innovative company – in any industry – about the biggest hurdles they face, and talent acquisition is likely to be at the top of their list. It’s the million-dollar question everyone wants to know– how do we attract and retain top tech talent?

If you had asked me during my college career if I would consider working at a bank, I would have most likely responded with – Are you kidding? I’m not an accountant, I’m an engineer! Little did I know I would begin my tech career at Capital One. I joined Capital One because I was not only drawn to the way they were using technology to reimagine an industry ripe for change but also by the company’s culture and how they empower their engineers to innovate.

To help other management teams adopt some of the principles that have resonated with me, a millennial new to the work force, I recently participated on a panel at SXSW about how to engage the next generation of tech talent. Below are a few takeaways from that panel on how to help your teams feel connected to their work and motivated to innovate.

1) Allow for impact.
Technology is disrupting and evolving entire industries, expanding opportunities for tech and engineering talent to innovate and make a tangible difference at work. Young tech workers are motivated and driven by hands-on opportunities for growth and fast execution. For a young developer in the early stages of my career, there was nothing more motivating than being assigned to be a lead contributor on a development project. I immediately felt empowered and ready to tackle new challenges knowing I had support and encouragement from my team to innovate and bring forth ideas to help solve problems! The most successful teams and companies in tech give interns and entry-level employees responsibilities and connect them with projects that matter. When you give young employees a meaningful goal, you will often find that we rise to the occasion, feel far more invested in our work, and KICK BUTT!

2) Facilitate Continuous Learning
Creating a strong learning culture is essential, particularly for young associates in the early stages of their careers. Our professional goals do not always match up with our current skills. By creating a culture that emphasizes growth and learning, you create opportunities for people to make significant contributions and to strive to be the best, well rounded engineers in the industry. A learning culture not only benefits the individual engineers; it is key to the success of innovative tech companies. Technology is constantly changing. In order for me to continue to develop the best solutions I need to continue to learn and grow with the changing industry. Make the workplace a rewarding training ground for people who learn fast and love learning.

3) Make Innovation a Habit
Establishing your reputation as an innovator is essential to attracting the best young tech talent today - but it is CRITICAL that you deliver on that promise of innovation EVERY SINGLE DAY. Great ideas can come from associates at every level. If a young associate is excited about an idea for a new product or service and has thought through a plan to make it a reality, equip him or her with the resources needed to act on it. Of course, fostering innovation also requires that your internal technology is keeping pace with constant change, so give young tech talent access to the latest and greatest systems and emerging technologies. It’s worth the investment and will only make your products and services better in the end.

4) Encourage Collaboration
From the moment an employee walks into a workspace, it should be clear that collaboration is not just welcome, but encouraged. Rather than being relegated to cubicles with high walls, create a workspace that makes it easy for employees to get together and discuss big and bold ideas. I LOVE our workspaces! They are designed to drive innovation and enable associates to work the way they work best – with open floorplans, movable furniture and walls, reconfigurable furniture, integrated white boards, plenty of comfortable areas to gather, and more amenities and cool gadgets too long to list. Beyond the workspace itself, the next generation of tech talent also will take cues from veteran employees. Managers working with young associates serve as conduits to other people in the organization, creating connections and facilitating introductions to teams that are open to fresh thinking from new talent. Senior team members often encourage me to seek out and calibrate with teams across the organization. This has helped me develop my network and innovate great ideas through collaboration. Be uncompromising about the quality of your people managers, and ensure that they are passionate about helping young employees thrive.

5) Maintain a Social Conscience
The next generation of tech talent expects a company to think about far more than the bottom line. I want to know not only what you are doing to serve your customers, but also what you are doing to give back to the broader community and how you are making a positive impact on the individuals you touch. When thinking through ways your company can add value to society beyond your product offerings, be mindful about your workforce and what makes them tick. For example, to engage underrepresent groups in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM education – Capital One created C1 Coders, a special 10-week coding curriculum for middle school students. Led by Capital One volunteers, hundreds of young students gain exposure to software engineering principles and practices. I am a proud Coders mentor. I have gotten great fulfillment seeing the interest and excitement the students have while getting hands on experience learning software development, problem solving, and even develop their own app.

To be successful, every part of the company needs to be committed to engaging the next generation of tech talent. An engaging workplace is not the result of a specific initiative or the responsibility of just one or two people in Human Resources but is, instead, the result of companywide appreciation for hard work and good ideas. When young employees are given the opportunity to contribute and show what they can do, amazing things can happen.

If you’re out at NY Tech Day next week, come stop by the Capital One booth, meet our team and check out some of the ways we’re reimagining banking.