Lunch and learn programs are sometimes referred to as learn-at-lunch or “brown-bag” sessions due to the brown bags used to carry lunches. Most companies today use lunch and learn programs as an alternative to formal training and seminars. The programs become integral parts of the organizational culture and, hopefully, an event that employees look forward to.
Basically, lunch and learn programs are training events that are scheduled during lunch break. The company offers free lunches to encourage employee attendance and participation since they take up the employee’s spare time. They are usually voluntary training sessions that must be interesting to make it worthwhile for employees to give up their free time. The training may be several hours long but split into short sessions delivered over a period of days or weeks.
Typical Lunch and Learn Training Programs
Since lunch and learn programs are typically voluntary, companies should provide unique lessons that make the employees happy to attend and learn. Typical lunch and learn programs include:
1. Personal development
Training and development events do not need to be strictly business. The company can take advantage of lunch breaks to train employees in skills that improve their awareness and identity. They can also involve developing talents and building human capital. Employees can learn how to draw, make wood carvings, weave, learn self-defense (martial arts), yoga, fitness, etc.
2. Diversity activities
The growth in information and technology continues to contribute to workforce diversity, with companies hiring employees from different backgrounds, cultures, and races. The organization can invite guest speakers to address its diverse workforce on exciting topics that employees would like to learn more about. Employees can also use the opportunity to showcase their cross-cultural talents and traditions.
3. Life skills
The lunch and learn program may also focus on training employees on essential life skills. The company can train its staff nearing retirement on retirement planning, income-generating activities for retirees, etc. Employees may also be interested in learning personal finance management such as budgeting and managing investments.
4. Employee-led professional development
Employees can use the lunch and learn sessions to learn the responsibilities of employees in other departments. For example, the company’s IOS developer can teach how to build an IOS app, while someone in the accounting department can train other staff members on how financial forecasting works. Not only will the employees learn new skills, but they also learn to appreciate the responsibilities of their colleagues.
Cross-training involves training an employee to perform the roles of another department. Worker A can learn the tasks allocated to B, while B can learn the tasks performed by A. The company can use the lunch and learn sessions to cross-train its employees since this increases their value in the company and minimizes fatigue associated with performing one function every day.
Benefits of Lunch and Learn Programs
Companies can benefit from adopting lunch and learn initiatives in several ways, including:
1. Helps with transparency and understanding
In large organizations with several departments, employees may not know the functions of employees in other departments. Some may not even know the team across the office because they hardly get an opportunity to interact.
Lunch and learn sessions serve as platforms for employees to bond and explain their responsibilities. When an employee understands what everyone else does and gets an opportunity to learn new skills, they better appreciate the other employees in the company.
2. Encourages growth and learning
A platform that allows employees to share ideas with each other also encourages them to grow their unexploited skills and talents. Lunch and learn sessions allow employees to teach others what they are best at, giving them an opportunity to nurture their skills and even speak during seminars and conferences.
Employees who are not comfortable addressing a large crowd of people get the opportunity to address people they are familiar with, and this helps to build self-confidence.
3. Strengthens the community
Often, employees get engaged so much in work that they forget their lives outside of the organization. Instead of letting the lunch break lapse without any meaningful engagements, they can use this time to showcase their talents, outside projects, and hobbies. They can link up with employees who share the same interests and build a community.
4. Builds a stronger work culture
Apart from providing employees with an exciting alternative to a lunch break, lunch and learn sessions help to strengthen the work culture. Employees appreciate what other employees in other departments do, and this increases their engagement in the company. They also work to the best of their capabilities when they know that the organization values their contributions.
Tips for Starting a Lunch and Learn Program
The following are useful tips for starting a lunch and learn program:
1. Market it
Plan for the lunch and learn event and let people know about it. Publish and distribute flyers to employees, outlining the topic to be covered and a summary of what people will learn. Create a buzz by including teasers that will encourage people to attend.
2. Plan a schedule
Employees will have an easy time attending a lunch and learn event if you build the time into people’s routine. For example, if you fix the program to be on Friday each week, employees can come to work on Friday expecting to learn something new every week. Create a consistent time and day and stick with it.
3. Plan lunches and presentations in advance
The organizer of the event should make arrangements for lunches and speakers a few weeks or days prior to the event. The speakers at the sessions should be informed in advance so that they can prepare teaching materials for the event.
Concerning lunches, the organizer should choose the restaurants to order from and agree on the numbers in advance. Alternatively, the organizer can receive suggestions from employees on their favorite restaurants to order from.
4. Make the sessions interactive
The lunch and learn sessions should not resemble university lectures that may make attendees fall asleep midway. The speaker should use multimedia items such as memes, music, infographics, and video clips to make the sessions interactive and interesting. Multimedia contents help break the monotony of looking at ordinary presentations.
5. Do not forget remote employees
Lunch and learn sessions should not lock out remote employees who work away from the office. They should offer video and audio conferencing support to far-away employees. Where free lunch is included, send gift cards and food delivery to these employees.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to lunch and learns. To learn more, check out the following CFI resources, and see our global Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst.