Today’s workforce is more generationally diverse than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, five generations are working alongside one another for the first time in modern history. The baby boomer generation is the largest, with 74 million in the U.S., according to Pew Research, which anticipates that millennials and Generation X will both surpass baby boomers in population before the next U.S. census. Generation Z and traditionalists (born before 1946) are the other two generations in today’s workforce.

From the highly experienced baby boomer to the new high school and college graduates of Generation Z, generational diversity means diverse ideas and life experiences, making the workplace an exciting place. However, the combination of this diversity with emerging technology presents unique challenges to today’s businesses.

One challenge is filling skill gaps in the workforce. Industries of all sizes are struggling to recruit or maintain sufficiently skilled employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment is projected to grow by 8.4 million jobs to 169.4 million jobs over the 2018–28 decade … This expansion reflects an annual growth rate of 0.5 percent, which is slower than the 2008–18 annual growth rate of 0.8 percent,” at least partly due to an aging workforce.

This slowed growth makes job training more important than ever for existing and emerging generations and businesses working to stay ahead of the curve. In addition, millions of employees who hold leadership and management positions will be retiring within the next five years, meaning companies are losing leaders at a faster rate than they are producing them.

Fortunately, training methods now span the continuums of needs and generations and can help businesses reach their goals, improve their bottom lines and keep staffing levels at capacity.

Method Meets Modality

Corporate training can help organizations grow their talent pipeline through customized learning, advancing the skills of their new and current employees, increasing retention, and enhancing organizational capabilities. An IBM study found that employees who don’t feel they can achieve career goals at their current employer are 12 times (30 for new employees) more likely to consider leaving it. Whether it’s to strengthen existing skills or to build new ones using innovative methods, an investment in training can make an organization a competitive powerhouse with happier, more engaged employees.

Some businesses must supplement their in-house training with additional learning components from educational providers as new technologies and concepts emerge. Partnering with a provider enables customized training and frees up internal team trainers. For example, developers seeking to develop their skills in Java programming can attend training that’s fully customized by an outside entity to work in parallel with project timelines, ensuring that work progress continues alongside advanced learning.

Running at the speed of business means enabling the quick development of high-demand skills with immediate proof of achievement, which is where online learn can help. A recent case study conducted by a team in Omaha, Nebraska analyzed more than 90 data points from an essential needs assessment of its corporate partners. The result was a list of 12 competency-based online courses on critical topics, including creative problem-solving, team collaboration, time management and blended learning.

Meanwhile, career skills training is gaining traction. The ACT Work Ready Community program is just one example of career skills training. It combines municipal, community, educational and business resources to reinforce and nurture a highly skilled workforce. What makes the program unique is the way it links workforce development to education without age restriction or qualification requirements to participate. In Nebraska alone, Work Ready Communities have engaged more than 300 employers.

Team-building exercises with learning components can also benefit all generations, especially if activities incorporate emerging technologies. They enable collaboration, naturally bringing out teamwork strategies, leadership, critical thinking, communication and delegation in a setting that’s outside of the office and team comfort zones.

Building talent pipelines by partnering with a training provider, community college or institution is another way to grow and retain diverse talent. Some businesses are redefining their talent development strategy and adopting an “earn and learn” approach to scale with needs. This approach develops a pipeline that allows individuals to begin employment while they are still in training. Rather than waiting for individuals to complete their education and employing them at the end of a program, employment and engagement with employees begins early in their educational journey.

Personalized, Engaging Learning

Methods aside, personalization and engagement can be the ultimate ingredients to success with diverse, multigenerational workforces. Preparation and research to identify and meet the needs of learning preferences and educational backgrounds across generations can improve training effectiveness. Choosing the best fit of engaging methods, whether in-person training, online learning, team building or on-the-job education, can lead to greater ownership, increased motivation and better employee relationships.