Lunch and Learn Sessions: Efficient and Effective Trainings for Your Team
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Lunch and Learns
You’ve worked hard this morning and now it’s lunchtime. Depending on your workload, you might have your lunch at your desk to save time and get back to work as soon as possible, or you may take a short stroll and have a sandwich on a bench in the park, or just a coffee and a doughnut from the guy on the street corner.
But not today. Today is different. Today your lunch is being paid for by the company and not only that, you’re going to spend the time with colleagues learning about easy stress management strategies. At the previous event, you learned about finance tips for wealth building.
So what is this all about? It’s about learning something new while you’re having lunch that the company pays for.
What is a Lunch and Learn?
A Lunch and Learn, also known as a learn-at-lunch, or a brown bag session, is an informal event for employees held during their lunch hour. Employees eat together, and at the same time, they receive information, learn something new related to their work or life skills. These informal training or development events are voluntary.
The sessions take place during lunch hour and can vary in length, with some lasting 90 minutes in order to make the most of the material relayed.
Many companies make use of these informal events to extend various skills throughout teams. Co-workers from different departments come to the event and share their skills with attendees. Some businesses have used lunch and learn events to give employees the opportunity to learn basic coding skills.
Businesses have also used these informal events to enrich employees’ lives through life skills training, including things like how to get a good night’s sleep, estate planning, volunteering opportunities, and many more.
As a rule, lunch is normally paid for by the company, but some companies are known to hold a lunch and learn with participants bringing their own food.
The Benefits of a Lunch and Learn
Transfer of knowledge
Employees from different teams and different departments can share how they work and what they do. If this is done over a few events, employees can learn skills from each other which can advance their career development.
Because more people know how to do each other’s work, employees can help out when someone is absent.
These events create an informal environment that encourages knowledge sharing and learning.
Because there is no pressure to perform or pass a test, learning happens effortlessly and this can contribute to the establishment of a culture of learning in the company.
Informal training lends itself to spontaneous discussion and sharing of knowledge. Were it formal training, people would be under pressure to prepare something in advance for a specific audience.
On the other hand, a lunch and learn event may present the ideal environment for employees to practice their public speaking skills by sharing their knowledge, whether it’s work-related or something of personal interest.
Improves employee engagement
We all love free stuff, and food is always welcome. There can hardly be a better way for a business to build positive morale than providing employees with a free lunch. Free food has been proven to create a happier workplace.
According to one survey, 60% of employees indicated that having company-provided food in the office “would make them feel more valued and appreciated”. A third of the responders said that they would attend optional meetings if there were free food.
Free food shows employees that their workplace appreciates their hard work. Employees who know that they are appreciated, are more engaged and employees who are more engaged, are more productive. Engaged employees are workers who enjoy their work and want to do a good job, which greatly benefits the business.
Productive use of company time
The need for training staff always presents a dilemma: staff needs to be trained, but they can’t afford the time away from work because of work pressure. Training during lunch solves this problem. The company gets some much-needed training done, and employees don’t resent it being done during their break because they receive free food.
Breaks the isolation
In many companies, employees spend hours in front of their computers in a world devoid of social contact. At call centers, workers only talk to customers who are often irate, and only communicate with co-workers through messaging.
Lunch and learn events break this social isolation giving workers a relaxing break and an opportunity to connect with each other while learning something new.
Lunch and Learn Ideas and Topics
Lunch and learn events should be fun, but offer some value. They can be informal training opportunities, offer career development tips, or teach life skills. They are not the platform for making important company announcements or doing essential skills training.
Here follow a few ideas for lunch and learn programs.
This is an efficient use of a lunch and learn event. Cross-training is when an employee from one department teaches employees from another department about their work and responsibilities. It can take the form of a general overview of the department’s work or the person can teach the attendees how to do certain tasks.
Depending on the size of the company and the nature of the work, the sharing of skills across departments and teams can make the company’s operations less vulnerable to absenteeism.
Cross-training lunch and learn events can give employees a better impression of where they and others fit into the overall workings of the company.
Talk about diversity and inclusion
This is a tricky subject in most situations. Diversity and inclusion is not a subject that you can talk about once and have it done with. This is an ongoing conversation in many organisations.
Companies that want to retain an existing diverse workforce and attract more of the same, can benefit from informal lunch and learn events to discuss diversity. These are great opportunities for organisations to learn how they can improve their diversity practices and make everyone feel welcome in the workplace.
Time management skills
Time management skills are essential for all employees in order to meet daily goals and project deadlines.
Usually, people just keep working harder when they run out of time, which means working overtime, exhaustion, and often a job not well done.
Training employees to make better use of their time, how to prioritize and effectively manage a heavy workload will help them to cope better and accomplish their tasks in a timely manner.
Get to know the other teams
This is not the same as cross-training. In this case, a department head joins the lunch and learn to speak about his/her department, what they do, what a typical day looks like, what their goals are, and how their goals align with company goals. This person also shares what the team’s current challenges are and anything else that might interest the group.
Social media dos and don’ts
We all use social media on a daily basis, but we don’t necessarily know social media best practices. Judging from the unfortunate fallout of many a Twitter exchange, or thoughtless remark on Facebook, it’s an excellent policy to hold training sessions that teach teams about the company’s social media strategy.
Also, this is where employees can learn how to go about posting work-related photos and tagging staff and the company.
Giving staff members an opportunity to share personal knowledge or a skill with the team over lunch, is a great way to help them develop public speaking skills in a nonthreatening environment. Anyone who aims to become a team leader or a manager needs these skills.
You can also invite someone from the company who is an accomplished public speaker to share some ideas. Alternatively, you could invite an expert or well-known public speaker to your lunch and learn. Keep it short and fun.
How to manage personal finances
Most people don’t know how to handle their personal finances or can at least learn a tip or two on how to handle their finances better. This skill is so integral to a successful life, yet no one ever learns at school or college how to properly handle their money. Start by having someone talk about how to budget – something few people do.
For another event, an invited expert can discuss different investment and financial planning options.
A lunch and learn about personal finance won’t go amiss.
Stay fit in front of your desk
It is very unhealthy to sit in the same position for hours as those of us do who work on computers every day. It can contribute to physical as well as mental health issues.
Help staff to stay fit while they’re sitting by introducing some fun yoga or stretching exercises that can be done at their desk.
Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable and can lead to unproductivity and low morale. Very few people know how to handle conflict well – we all need help with that. A lunch and learn where everyone is relaxed, is the ideal opportunity to have the human resource manager talk about conflict resolution strategies for conflict situations that commonly happen in the workplace.
How to avoid the afternoon slump
Your workers will appreciate learning some tips on how to beat that after-lunch drowsiness that hits them every day. Invite a nutritionist to share information on food, exercise, and other lifestyle choices that affect energy levels. Staff can learn how to change their habits in order to have more energy throughout the day.
How to organise a lunch and learn: tips for a successful program
Get the food right
Make sure the food is good. Don’t lure employees with free food and then disappoint them with a slice of pizza they could have any day of the week. A free lunch is a big deal and something that most employees would appreciate if it’s better than what they would have had that day.
Choose interesting topics
If you are doing a life skill learning event, choose a topic that is relevant and current. The best way to come up with ideas and to get employee buy-in is to ask them what topics they are interested in or need to learn more about. This way you know that the subject matter will resonate with your audience.
Spread the word in advance
Let staff know well in advance of the upcoming lunch and learn event. This gives people time to plan to attend. It also creates a buzz around the event.
Choose your presenters with care
The person who’s leading the lunch and learn should be well-versed in the topic of the event, whether it’s on time management skills, financial planning, website development, or cooking on a budget. Also, be sure to find an engaging speaker. People are giving up their lunchtime break – make it worth their while.
Have a clear learning objective
No matter what topic you have chosen for your lunch and learn, make sure that the participants will walk away with something useful that they have learned. If you make sure there is a definite takeaway for them, they will feel that it was time well spent and they will be eager to attend the next one.
Include remote workers
Many people are working from home these days and won’t be able to attend an event at the office. By streaming the event online, you give these employees an opportunity to attend and bond with other co-workers. You could consider having some food for them delivered to their homes.
Lunch and learn events are a great opportunity for organisations to invest in employee development. While traditional corporate training can be expensive and often misses the mark, lunch and learn events are a fun way to engage employees. These informal training events are effective because learning happens in a relaxed atmosphere. If you keep the topics relevant, get exciting speakers, and provide good food, your voluntary learning events will be well-attended.
Rosalind Cardinal is the Managing Director of Shaping Change, a consultancy specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a globally awarded facilitator and leadership coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 25 years. Ros' expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, emotional intelligence, organisational behaviour, employee engagement, strategic direction and management.
Ros is accredited in over 20 psychometrics and diagnostic tools, covering leadership behaviour, organisational culture, emotional intelligence, competencies, and more.
Ros is a Certified Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute, a member of the Australian Institute of Training and Development a Professional Member of the Australian Association for Psychological Type, and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Human Resources and is studying for a Diploma of Neuroscience.
In addition to Ros’ own blog, she is a regular contributing writer for Leaders in Heels, “Thrive”, and “People Development” Magazine.
Ros is a 2020 Telstra Business Women's Awards Finalist. Shaping Change was a finalist in the 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 Small Business Champions Awards, and Ros was a winner in the 2015 Australian Edupreneur Awards. In 2016, 2017, and again in 2018, Ros was awarded Leadership Coach of the Year – Australia by Corporate LiveWire in their Global Innovation and Excellence Awards. In 2016 Ros released her bestselling and award nominated book “The Resilient Employee: The essential guide to coping with change and thriving in today’s workplace”.