Learn at Lunch, A Program To Help Employees Grow

Helping Employees Grow with Lunch and Learn Events

Team of workers eating lunch and looking at p.c. screen

There never seems to be enough time during the day to get everything done. The typical training dilemma suggests that you cannot spare people to go to training because there is so much work to be done, but you also can't neglect their training and development. Learn at Lunch (commonly referenced as Lunch and Learn as well) events offer an opportunity to solve part of this problem. 

What Is Learn at Lunch?

At its simplest, a Learn at Lunch program is a training or development event scheduled occasionally during the lunch hour or lunch period.

Given the use of employee personal time, many firms offer incentives including free lunches to encourage attendance and involvement. Learn at Lunch training is usually less formal and less structured than traditional training events. The topics must be conducive to short, hour-long sprints delivered over a period of days or weeks.  

Typical Learn at Lunch Training Programs include:

  • Cross Training. This can range from teaching Customer Service reps how to answer the phone correctly to providing leadership training to first line managers.
  • Product training. If your company offers many products or services, a program of Learn at Lunch sessions can help all employees better understand the product differences.
  • Employee-led professional development. Give people an opportunity to learn what people in other departments do. Do you have someone in IT who could teach a course in programming basics or someone in accounting who could explain how financial forecasting works? Maybe someone in HR could teach a session on how to interview better.
  • Personal Development. A Learn at Lunch program does not have to be strictly business. Some firms use these opportunities to offer non work-related learning opportunities, including ranging from wood carving to painting or drawing.
  • Life Skills. Other options for leveraging Learn at Lunch programs include focusing on important life skills such as retirement planning, budgeting or physical fitness. 

    What Learn at Lunch is Not:

    Learn at Lunch is not the time to do training that is required, either by law or by the company. It is not a good time to train employees on serious subjects like ethics or harassment. Don't use Learn at Lunch programs for anything where you need to keep track of who attends. These sessions must be voluntary. 

    Learn at Lunch programs are idea for subjects that can be covered in 30-45 minutes or, for topics that can be easily broken down into short modules for delivery over a number of days or weeks. 

    How To Start A Learn at Lunch Program:

    There are many variations of a Learn at Lunch program. Some suggestions to help you get started include: 

    • Gain support from your boss, executive and appropriate human resources or training and development professionals.
    • Choose interesting, relevant topics.
    • Tailor topics for different audiences in the workplace.
    • Establish learning objectives for each topic and lunchtime training session. 
    • Consider offering light, healthy lunch food, snacks and beverages as part of the program. 
    • Communicate the schedule in advance. 
    • Where appropriate, provide light, advance reading or materials. 
    • Invite employees to submit ideas for work or life-related topics.
    • Encourage employees to consider offering their own skills for leading these programs.
    • Make certain to measure participant satisfaction with each session and refine the program based on feedback.
    • Select a location that supports both training and eating. 
    • Consider the needs of remote employees who may like to attend. Offer optional video or audio conferencing support and if you are including a free lunch for local employees, extend a voucher or offer a limited reimbursement for those away from the office.
    • Record and make the sessions available for those who were unable to attend. 
    • Be sensitive to the reality that many employees appreciate their lunch period as an opportunity to decompress. Strike a balance between your eagerness to schedule these events and the needs of your employees for time away from their daily jobs. 
    • Ideally, make attendance optional and focused on content that helps individuals improve their professional skills or ability to navigate life's challenges. 

    Benefits Of Learn at Lunch Programs:

    • A Learn at Lunch program provides employees with an interesting alternative to a typical lunch break.
    • If the topics are carefully selected, these events will grow in popularity. 
    • These programs offer the opportunity to improve employee engagement and involvement in the business in an informal manner.
    • The trainers enjoy the spotlight of being able to share their expertise with others in the company.

    Potential Risks and Pitfalls:

    • Requiring participation will reduce interest and enjoyment in these events. 
    • Not offering a wide variety of subjects risks boring the participants and reducing involvement over time. 
    • Schedule too many of these events and you risk annoying employees who value their lunch period as a time to get away from their desks and decompress, exercise or run errands.
    • Fail to offer facility for remote employees to participate will potentially alienate these valuable professionals. 

    The Bottom-Line:

    The most successful organizations invest in supporting employee development. While training can be expensive and the impact sometimes questionable, Learn at Lunch programs offer a non-threatening and fun method for extending learning and stimulating the energy and creativity in the workplace. 

    -Updated by Art Petty

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