Lunch is a favorite time of day for many people who work in an office setting.
No matter what the morning is like, lunch gives you an opportunity to refresh and charge your batteries. It’s something to look forward to every day and lets you move to the afternoon ahead with new energy and confidence.
But lunch can also be enlightening, not just energizing. You can do more with it than ever before.
The key: The “Lunch and Learn” program.
What Is a Lunch and Learn?
A lunch and learn is an onsite learning program where an expert – usually someone from inside the company, but sometimes a guest – takes time to share valuable information on an important topic.
With a lunch and learn, your team members have the opportunity to get something done at lunch. Plus, they can develop their skills in a comfortable, relaxed setting.
Lunch and learn programs usually last only about 30 to 45 minutes out of every lunch out, so there’s time to get situated at the start and clean up at the end without rushing.
6 Benefits of a Lunch and Learn
1. Faster, Easier, More Targeted Learning
Not everyone tests well or does great in a traditional “classroom” environment.
Because the atmosphere in a lunch and learn is intimate and informal, people often find it easier to learn what they need to know. People tend to look forward to the opportunity and even enjoy it.
Since a lunch learning program takes up a relatively short time, each presenter must really focus in on the topic at hand. That forces those who wish to be instructors to really drill into the core issues and emphasize the key things to know – also a great relief to the “students.”
2. More Opportunities to Teach and Mentor
To really understand any subject, you need to know it well enough to teach it to others.
Unfortunately, there’s usually a lot of red tape keeping people from stepping up and sharing what they know. Lunch learning means more employees will know how to teach and train.
This can influence career trajectories and even help your people uncover a passion that they didn’t expect before.
It’s not so difficult for a speaker at lunch learning to realize that a future as a trainer sounds pretty good – and soon, your enterprise will be building up even more knowledge capital.
3. Lower Turnover and Faster Recruitment
Career-minded people are always looking for ways to improve their skills.
This is especially true in industries like information technology and, yes, marketing. Making it less of a chore for team members to keep their skills sharp benefits everyone and strengthens loyalty to the employer.
Learning at lunch demonstrates to potential new hires that they’ll have opportunities to grow all throughout their tenure at your company.
When you invest in others’ success, they will be much more likely to invest their time with you and stick with you through tomorrow’s challenges.
4. Clearer Goals and Higher Achievement
Your lunch and learn program helps you to clarify the organizational goals.
To really maximize a program’s impact, it’s vital to look at the business situation and figure out how to get from point A to point B. Only then can you highlight the skills each individual and team may need.
Of course, that whole discovery process means that learning can be aligned to your strategic objectives.
Over a few months, you may find that more of your personnel have the skills they need to adapt quickly to new problems and perform at their best when the pedal hits the metal.
5. Closer Coordination and Teamwork
Sometimes people like to eat alone, but for the most part, social connection helps people move to the same beat.
Team members who might not normally have the chance to meet one another can start to foster real trust as part of a lunch and learn. Cross-functional teamwork becomes a snap.
Working together is essential to success in any large enterprise. When people learn together, they are growing and reaching for improvement side by side.
All of a sudden, they see others not just as coworkers, but as resources they can connect with when they need a helping hand.
6. Streamlined Certification and Compliance
Lots of organizations are in the position of having to learn and apply new information on an ongoing basis.
IT-focused enterprises, for example, won’t last long if they don’t stay ahead of the latest data security trends. Finance and healthcare firms must comply with emerging regulations.
When all this is separate from the workday, it becomes a source of enormous overhead that staff often have to shoulder on their own.
When you can learn at lunch, things are a lot better: Big compliance challenges seem simpler, and individuals have a clear path to useful learning assets.
Lunch and Learn Topics Your Coworkers Will Love
Naturally, your team members aren't going to want to sit and stare at each other for an hour. Nor do they want to have the same conversation every time they get together.
It's a great idea to mix things up a bit during lunch and learns. New ideas and topics keep things fresh and your team engaged.
Here are some cool topics to try out:
Ask team members from different specialties to volunteer and train another team member in their job. Often times, even in the same department, staff have different roles. Cross-training is a great way to align your team.
Personal Finance Workshop
Introduce a workshop where your staff can learn budgeting tips and start a savings plan. You can teach them on the importance of saving for retirement and how different programs work for them, like their 401K.
Have some fun playing different team building games and activities that get your staff engaging with each other. Whether it's simple, like trust falls, or more elaborate, like Office Jeopardy, it's a great idea to let relationships develop through some fun.
Time Management Workshop
Workshop different time management strategies that team members can utilize inside the office and out. You can have a featured speaker on the matter or have individual team members offer their personal habits and techniques that work for them.
TED Talks are a great way for team members to learn together. There's such a wide variety of speakers to choose from, so there's always a new subject matter to touch on. Host discussions afterward to keep your team engaged.
This is a fun way to get your team members' creative juices flowing. Groups can be made up of different specialists together or they can be specialist specific. Each group has the length of the lunch and learn to develop a unique project or pitch on an assigned topic together.
The final product can be anything from a short story to a movie pitch to a new app idea. It's a fun way to get team members brainstorming and collaborating together while exercising their skill sets outside of their daily workload.
Naturally, this is catered more toward your leadership and executives. Host a lunch and learn where your decision makers can get together and discuss what's going well and what can be improved. Offer leadership training and educational opportunities.
Pop Culture Catch Up
Give your team a mental break where they can get together and catch up on what's happening in pop culture. Offer a certain amount of time where they can discuss what's new, why it's big, and then challenge them to find an actionable takeaway that they can apply toward their roles or the organization's growth.
Hosting a monthly book club provides staff members a casual, low pressure means of getting together and enjoying a common love of reading together.
This is a great opportunity for new team members and existing staff to get to know one another. They can introduce themselves and begin developing workplace relationships. It's also an ideal time to introduce new processes or strategies to your team.
These are only some of the hundred great ideas you can implement into your lunch and learn program. There's a ton of fun and interesting ways to get your staff involved and growing.
How to Execute Your First Lunch and Learn
If you're going to do a lunch and learn, you'll want to do it right. There's a big difference between a structured program and just letting your team hang out and eat for a specific amount of time.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Your staff deserves some time to blow off steam. But a "lunch and learn" implies something a bit more organized.
Executing your first can be pretty daunting, but we promise it's not as daunting as it looks.
1. Choose Light Topics.
You can't forget that this is supposed to be a lunch alternative. You don't want to have heavy discussions about sensitive subjects or perform intense trainings.
Use this time as an opportunity to bring a light, casual atmosphere to the office and offer a productive break from your staff's day-to-day. They should leave the session feeling refreshed.
2. Provide a Decent Lunch.
Coffee and crackers doesn't really qualify as a proper spread. If you're asking your team members to come participate, incentivize the offer by providing a quality lunch.
Of course, keep your budget in mind. You don't necessarily need to cater from Olive Garden. But offering sandwiches and other favorite snacks is a great way to show your appreciation. Pizza is always a popular option.
For those with specific diets, make sure they have alternatives or create a judgement-free environment where they can feel comfortable bringing their own lunch.
3. Schedule Strategically.
Make sure you give your team members a heads up way in advance for your lunch and learn program. They'll appreciate having ample time to get their work organized so that they can attend without feeling like they'll be put behind.
A week's notice is a considerate amount of time.
4. Develop a Goal.
Defining an objective for the lunch allows for there to be a more structured purpose behind it all. Yes, it should feel light and open, but you still want your team to walk away with something.
Picking a learning goal doesn't have to be too deep. Just develop an idea of what you want your team to learn or retain. It shouldn't be anything too complex or deep.
5. Offer Down Time.
Be sure to leave enough time for your staff to unwind at the end of the lunch. People enjoy mingling and sharing ideas after an event. Make sure they have the time and space to do so.
This is especially useful if there was a speaker or some sort of activity involved. Team members may have follow up questions for the speaker or thoughts they'll want to share with other attendees.
6. Remember Remote Employees.
If you have remote teams, it's imperative that you keep them in the loop for any office events your organization hosts. Keeping remote workers engaged is critical in letting them feel valued and productive.
To limit how disconnected they feel from the company, which is inevitable but you can try and temper it, make sure they have a means to participate as well.
Messaging and video apps like Zoom and Slack gives everyone a chance to be involved.
7. Field Employee Feedback.
At the end of the lunch, make sure to get feedback from your staff on how they enjoyed it. Did they learn anything valuable? Do they see any area for improvement?
You can also ask if they have any lunch and learn ideas of their own. Who better to tell you what your team is interested in than your team? They likely have some pretty cool activities in mind.
At the end of the day, your lunch and learn program is meant to bring your staff together for some crucial bonding and an opportunity to learn something new. Try not to get too nitty gritty in the details of it all. Focus on keeping it productive and fun.
A lunch and learn can really get your department cooking. Give it a try and you’ll see the tasty results!