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Learning Lunches


I am looking at initiating a programme of "learning lunches" once a month, which will be open to anyone in the office to attend.Ideally sessions will last approx 90 minutes.
The purpose is to promote learning in the workplace during a lunch hour. Topics would include stress managment, mind mapping, myers briggs,financial planning etc...

I am wondering if anyone has attempted this in the past or is currently running such an initiative? Any ideas on how to start, learnings, topics or presenters that you know who would be willing to present on these topics

Ramzan Rafique

13 Responses

  1. Some ideas which I’ve used
    I’ve run a series of evening events for business winners along the same lines which have been well received. Here are some tips which I offer: 1. Ensure you have senior sponsors who will encourage people to attend. 2. Email announcements as a ‘meeting request’ so they go in people’s diaries. 3. Put notices up around the building on the day. 4. Have a web page with future dates and downloads from past events. 5. Use them to ‘try out’ training suppliers (ask them to put on an event for nothing – a great test). 6. Record who comes and who doesn’t

  2. Team Leader Lunches
    We run a (fairly) regular series of Team Leader lunches, lasting around 1.2 to 2 hours. These are not strictly training, but more of an opportunity to pass on useful information to them on topical HR and Training issues. However, the issues we encounter could be useful for you to consider when planning your lunches.

    While people are eating, we find it is difficult to get them to be as participative as they might otherwise be. These are usually fairly informal, relaxed sessions where they get an opportunity to discuss ideas with each other, and which they appreciate, even if they don’t always take advantage.

    As these sessions take place during their lunch period, we don’t make attendance mandatory, although most manage to attend most of the time. We’ve conducted a survey recently and the feedback is good – they find that these provide enormous value to them. If you want to know more, I’d be happy to help.

  3. Learning Lunches
    Last year I set up a series of ‘Bite-sized’ training sessions which lasted for 2 hours and covered a range of topics – presentation skills, communication, supervision, coaching, project management, how you learn, customer service, motivation, facilitation, feedback. These were received really well and filled a temporary gap for locally delivered, cost effective introductions to a number of soft skills. In 8 months we had over 300 people attend at least one session. We charged £10 per session – a token amount to cover materials to encourage the delegates to view the sessions as ‘proper’ training. We kept a register and shared ‘attendance’ and ‘no-shows’ with line managers. If delegates were particularly engaged or interested and contributed well, I would often share this with their managers also.

    Some things I would urge you to consider in your approach:
    – Use a focus group to identify the areas your audience want to cover – ensuring buy in and a feeling that views are listened to and acted upon.
    – Use the events to encourage members of your company to present in areas they are knowledgeable in – this helps to encourage networking and show people in a different and sometime illuminating light.
    – Do a short evaluation, indicates to the delegates this is a proper learning event, useful for your own assessment needs and allows you to blow your own trumpet when you come to summarise at the end of the series and send an email to the company telling them what you’ve achieved!
    – Think about running them at the start of the day. We ran ours from 9-11, this meant that people coming from other locations didn’t break their day too much. The provision of a sandwich shouldn’t be a bribe to attend – you want delegates who want to be there! Food can also be a real distraction in sessions like this.
    – Put together good delivery plans so anyone can pick them up and run with them (team leaders, managers, other training professional in sister organisations, or global contacts). Our sessions ended up as far away as Sydney!
    – Make the delivery of the session as INTERACTIVE as possible. Use bright colours, smelly pens, video clips and music to create a really different environment to other learning events delegates may have attended and keep the key learning outcomes fresh in their mind.
    – Action plans at the end of the session allow the delegates to take their learning back to the workplace and continue to think about their new knowledge/skills.
    – Send out an email to the delegates after attending with links to useful websites connected with the course topic and continue the networking when people return to their roles.

    Good luck. Trust me – it’s amazing what you can achieve in 2 hours!

  4. Technically – Lunch !
    I have used a series of lunch-time sessions as a way to share knowledge within a technical team. These are different from your proposed sessions which aim to offer topics that are relevant across all functions .. but here’s some ideas anyway :

    Letting individuals within a team present to their colleagues is a positive thing – it gives people a chance to develop their presentation skills, as well as spreading specialist knowledge.

    The presenters have a chance to get across any witty or controversial ideas, and the rest of the team benefit from the subject matter itself.

    Keep things brief and you’ll keep the focus. It’s great discpline to have a 30-minute time limit on a technical presentation.

    The best way I have seen to encourage people to attend is to offer free food – simple but effective, as long as there is some budget for a few sandwiches – and try to leave food until the very end of the session !

  5. Quality Brown Bags
    Some years ago, the County of Sacramento (California, USA) held Quality Brown Bags.

    They were monthly training classes, held in the County Administration Building, during the lunch hour, to provide employees an opportunity to learn about Total Quality Management.

    The speakers were instructors from the local community college, past graduates or current students in the Total Quality Management Certificate program. It was a great networking opportunity to learn what was going well in other departments and to find suggestions for what one might try differently. The attendance was volunteer.

  6. It can be made to work!
    I did a series of these type of event at my last employer and they worked well though they need some effort to get them going
    Give me a call on 07812 170391 if you want to chat about what you are planning.
    Also (if you have money)TMI run a quite cute set of one hour events (I haven’t used them but they sound convincing!

  7. Bite into learning
    We have found 1.5 hour sessions with food at the end work the best. Time of day varies from breakfast through to supper but these sessions do fare better with food.

    Subject areas we have taught in include management, employment law, Personnel strategy, customer relationship management and running a business for profit.

    We are of the opinion that network events on line to follow up themes such as short quizzes,information displays and interactive chat rooms work well were there is senior buy in. Like most things commitment from the top pays dividends.

    We have been asked to run these sessions as a show case for our company. We have run one at a reduced charge for clients in the charity sector.


  8. Less is More
    I’m not sure why you’ve selected 1.5 hours as the session length, but here are a few of points you might want to consider:

    1. The maximum attention span for most people is 30-45 minutes (in practice many people find that 30-35 minutes is their limit)

    2. In that amount of time it isn’t practical to try to get across more than 3 key points, so as a previous writer said, do keep the sessions tightly focused

    3. People on training courses often learn as much from each other as they learn from the trainer, especially in ‘soft skill’ subjects – so make sure that there’s plenty of time for interaction after the main event

    4. Without adequate post-event support, much (over 50%) of what has been said on training courses (even in the case of experiential training) is lost over the subsequent 2-3 months.
    What kind of follow-up sessions do you/can you offer to minimise this loss?

  9. We’re still learning how to do this
    We’ve used lunch time-learning sessions for about 6 months with mixed results. Attendance is strictly voluntary and the presenter is any employee who wants to share work-related knowledge since we have no budget for an outside trainer. The presenter chooses the format: some people like a casual, interactive chat session and others will give a semi-formal talk. We use internet technology to allow employees at regional offices to see the presenter’s PC screen for PowerPoint presentations.

    The downside seems to be that we’re running out of topics and enthusiasm. Also, although the presentation usually lasts less than an hour, the presenter has to prepare the talk and that consumes work time. It’s hard to say how much value there is in these classes, since we deliberately don’t test participants or rate presenters. Apparently most people don’t want to concentrate hard while eating lunch and I suspect that there isn’t much transfer of knowledge.

    I think your choice of ‘soft’ or ‘entertaining’ topics such as Myers-Briggs and stress management may be a better choice than our mostly technical discussions, Ramzan.

  10. Self-facilitated brown bag lunches
    Brown bag lunches are what a client (one of top 4 accountancies/consultancies) calls them. Learning is provided remotely with managers trained in how to facilitate sessions. Regards David Hill, Echelon Learning

  11. Short comment about limitations of ‘brown bags’
    Perhaps I could make one very brief additional observation? As David Hill mentioned, Americans refer to lunch-time sessions as ‘brown bags’ because many people take their lunch to work in a brown paper bag. If you have to present at one of these sessions you become only too aware of the rustling of these bags and the general noise of people taking a meal — including side conversations. The idea behind lunch-time sessions is that they don’t use paid employee time, but the number of people who suggested offering a simple free lunch *after* the training session implies that ‘brown bags’ aren’t very effective as a way of training staff. An occasional lunch-time session, on the other hand, may be a good, cheap morale booster.

  12. lunch and learns
    WE are currently working with a pensions organisation in the area who have a system called lunch and learn where staff are given a buffet lunch in return for giving up their lunchhour and working on for another hour into the works time. This has proven very popular but has sometimes needed some discipline instilling on start and finish times – the person managing this has said that they would have developed clearer guidelines/rules about timekeeping and attendance at the outset to avoid some of the early over-runs or people crying off at the last minute due to operational problems.

    Why not structure the content of the programme to allow participant to gradually build up credits towards a formal qualification – this could help you gain the commitment of the attendees and also help you identify the topics.

    Hope this helps
    Liz Hindley

  13. You can have some success if you plan it right
    Hi Ramzan

    I’ve used “brown bag” sessions on two occasions – one of which was more successful than the other. I organised a series of sessions to cover the transfer of technical knowledge and processess associated with a new pensions management system. This worked well, with good attendance figures over a two month period.

    I used key workers to run the sessions, which I think, made them attractive to staff, who knew them and respected their knowledge. Needless to say, the more enthusiastic the trainer the better the response from attendees! I think this approach worked, because the training was planned, with specific topics being covered each week. Staff could see the benefits of attending, wanted to support their colleagues, and realised this was a short term solution during a very busy period. I kept the sessions to within 1 hour.

    The other programme I launched was to introduce and encourage debate on e-commerce. This was by invitation only and involved guest speakers coming along to introduce topics related to e-commerce. The initital sessions were good, but the programme lost momentum. I think this was because, the invite list should have been more targeted, (some attendees could not see the strategic focus of the talks,) and also the sessions were ad hoc, rather than being run as part of a pre-defined programme with a clear routemap for achievement. I think “brown bag” sessions can work well, but they do need to be managed appropriately.


    Rosie Norgrove
    Training Manager


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