When you examine workplace learning, there is no clear-cut definition on what that means or how to implement it, but one thing is for sure: in today's highly competitive business environment, employee safety, engagement, skills development, and knowledge transfer all play a critical role in the success of workplaces and organizations.

As we see in the articles in this forum, it is not just the responsibility of learning and human resources professionals to manage employee development. Leaders—including managers and supervisors—are playing a more vital role in the engagement, skills training, and day-to-day development of their employees. Managing department knowledge and their employees' competencies are becoming critical skills for executives and middle managers.

Knowledge Management

With the impending talent exodus of Baby Boomers, the need to capture their knowledge before it walks out the door is essential for a smooth transition to new leadership. As Holly C. Baxter writes in her article, "One of the biggest challenges for all organizations was that they did not have a way to formally capture tacit knowledge and experience from workers and leaders. In some cases, this was due to stovepipes and silos, but in most cases, it was due to simply not knowing how to tap into the intellectual capital of those with the most expertise."

Baxter gives tips on how to identify knowledge gaps, how to make changes through a coordinated set of initiatives, and how to use the new technologies available to help leaders create the human and technical infrastructure to help staff learn, share, connect, and conceptualize knowledge through collaboration.

Safety Training

When most people think of employee learning, they envision a program or initiative that teaches safety and upgrades employee skills. The article by Alison Gjefle and Valine Vikari highlights how the Department of Energy's Emergency Support Function created an online learning solution to help employees stay current on regulations and practice new processes and procedures. Instead of sending 90 people from 14 offices nationwide to a three-day classroom training session, learners logged into a learning module—one that included case studies, scenario-based knowledge checks, and quizzes—on their own time, and then participated in simulation to practice their skills.

"Knowledge acquisition alone—whether classroom-based on online—doesn't equal the power of an activity in which learners are required to synthesize and incorporate knowledge, and apply it. That's where the learning simulation comes into play," the authors write in "Training to the Rescue: First Responders Power Up Skills While Cutting Costs."

Citizen Engagement, Employee Learning

When employees engage in dialogue with citizens, a wealth of knowledge emerges. Refined web-based technologies and social media tools—such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and interactive websites—provide a venue for learning for both employees and citizens. This dialogue can help dispel erroneous assumptions, foster understanding of policy issues, and create collaboration between government officials and citizens.

Years ago, in-person town halls gave government officials and citizens the chance to discuss issues face-to-face. Technology is making the interaction between the two parties more prevalent, less costly, and more inclusive. In "Online Dialogues Help Promote Learning and Engage" Citizens, Mary Leary, Jack Malgeri, and Michael Reardon discuss how these technology tools help citizens and government officials actively participate in the civic engagement process.

Talent Management

Authors Stephen Pick and Neville Uhles examine using a competency library as part of an integrated talent management system. They discuss the characteristics of an effective competency library and the importance of creating a common language for everyone in an organization, regardless of position. They use a case study to show how to align talent management practices to a competency library.

"As agencies of all kinds struggle to do more with less and achieve their mission under increasingly challenging circumstances, implementing strong , competency-based integrated talent management can contribute a great deal toward making their work easier, more effective, and efficient," according to Pick and Uhles.

The competition for great talent is tough, and keeping that great talent is even tougher. It is critical that executives and managers empower peak performance to help grow the next generation of leaders and create strategies to foster a culture of learning through engagement, talent management, and knowledge management.