Recently a training company trademarked the term “Lunch N Learn” as it originates from the idea of Lunch and Learn training programs that have been utilised in the business world for years. (Source: Live & Learn: F. John Reh) Lunch and Learns are useful for training and educational purposes in the workplace. Such events have also been termed brown-bag seminars. It depends on whether or not employees bring their lunch or lunch is provided by the employer. This article will discuss the specific purposes and benefits of lunch and learns, as well as how to start such a program in your workplace.
Purposes of Lunch & Learns
A lunch and learn is a training program that occurs during the lunch hour at the office. At the accident reconstruction firm that I worked for, the owner saw great value in having lunch and learn trainings once every 1 – 2 months. To make the event more fun for the employees, the owner provided lunch for everyone—usually pizza, hoagies or simple food dishes. Lunch and learns are usually informal events. Here are some reasons to host a lunch and learn.
- Learning Skills – If you have customer service reps that need to learn better phone communication skills or managers might need leadership training.
- Product Training – Whether your company is a start-up or has been in business for a while, a lunch and learn can be used as a product training session. It creates a friendly environment for employees to understand the ins and outs of the product.
- Professional Development – Employees can be trained on a skillset that will enhance their professional development. For example, it might be helpful for the IT Department to train on basic computer programming issues.
- Personal Development – Contrary to misconception, a lunch and learn does not have to be all about business. One time, my previous boss had her personal trainer come in for a session on exercise tips and healthy living.
- Life Skills Development – There are many life skills that your employees may want training on. You could bring in a financial planner to discuss household budgeting or a personal life coach to discuss life skills development.
Some types of training are required by law such as, ethics, harassment and safety issues. Those training events should take place during the actual work day, not the lunch hour since employee attendance is mandatory at those meetings. An employer cannot make a lunch and learn mandatory since a lunch break is just that—a break. Keep the training time to approximately 30 – 45 minutes since you want to provide time in the beginning for people to eat. Anything over an hour would be too long. The employees could lose focus when they return to work after the training.
Benefits of Lunch & Learns
Most employers will see that there are many benefits to hosting a lunch and learn at the office. Some of those benefits are listed below.
- Training provided to employees at a minimal cost
- Makes good use of time at the office since no extra hours are required
- Many employees see the value in such trainings and enjoy the lunch time
- Encourages employee involvement in the workplace and fosters good will
How to Create a Lunch & Learn Program
The possibilities are endless for the types of lunch and learn programs that you can develop for your office. The development process for these programs needs to take time since the basic set up must be custom-made to the specific needs in your office. Plan ahead and make sure that you have developed a comprehensive program before scheduling a date.
Step # 1: Think about the Location
It sounds simple; however, remember that this is a lunch and learn and you need to host this meeting in a place that works well for eating. You don’t necessarily need tables for everyone, but you should at least have enough chairs. As mentioned earlier, the best option is to keep the food simple like pizza or sandwiches, which people can eat and hold a plate in their lap. When I worked at the accident reconstruction firm, we held the lunch and learn meetings in the board room with a large table and chairs. There were also sofas and other chairs in the room. If you have a larger lunch room or even an outside area, those could work as well.
Step # 2: Planning for the Food
Again, you can ask employees to bring their own bag lunches. However, providing a company paid lunch makes the event more enjoyable and anticipated. This decision depends on the budget and how much management wants to motivate employees to participate.
Step # 3: Topic of Discussion
The most important factor is to decide upon the reason for having the lunch and learn. What topic will be discussed? What type of training will employees receive? Some ideas have already been laid out previously in this article. This is where your creativity can run wild as you think outside the box and try to find the topics that will most benefit your employees and company.
Step # 4: Recruiting an Expert
Some training may involve in-house managers discussing a topic and teaching the employees. However, when you bring in an outside expert such as a personal trainer, life coach or financial planner, it adds a sense of excitement to the meeting. You can pay a nominal fee for an expert to come in to train your employees. However, if your budget is limited, try to find consultants from your social and professional networks who wouldn’t mind coming in to speak. It’s a win-win situation. It provides an expert for you free of charge and offers an opportunity for free publicity for this consultant.
Step # 5 Share the Program with Employees
Be enthusiastic when you share this new teaching tool with your employees. If you are excited about it, the majority of others will join in with anticipation as well. Stress the fact that the lunch and learns are not mandatory. However, you strongly suggest that all employees will greatly benefit from participating.
Resources for Finding Lunch & Learn Topics
There are many online resources to assist in helping employers decide on lunch and learn topics. The following list showcases some of those resources.
- BrightHub.com offers a listing of 10 Lunch & Learn Topics such as stress relief, self-defense and managing retirement funds
- KentEnterprises.net has a listing of health and wellness topics such as healthy living and nutrition and weight loss for maximum daily performance in the workplace
- Jen Waak is the founder of KeyboardAthletes.com and you can download her free eBook here: 12 Lunch and Learn Ideas Your Team Will Love
Creating a lunch and learn program can be a fun experience. Implementing the program into the office will benefit both the employees and the company as a whole. By following the simple steps outlined in this article, the process can be made easier. Remember to be cognizant of the location you chose and have fun picking topics.