August 13, 2021

How to Run a Successful Lunch and Learn Series

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This article is the first of our Be Well at Work with Engaging Lunch and Learns Series

Wellness in the workspace or workplace is hotter than ever. Well-being at work is one of the top pillars to attracting and keeping great talent. Many employers and businesses have realized how lunch and learns can engage people on the topic of wellness. When we feel better we work better.

What is a lunch and learn or L&L? How can they help your organization’s culture flourish?

What is a lunch and learn

Lunch and Learn sessions can be offered both on-site and virtually to include remote workers or even as a hybrid system to accommodate in-office and out-of office workers. Employees show up or log in and learn more about a chosen topic from a speaker. These events usually include a question and answer component, and may also involve group activities.

Top employers who retain great talent lead by example and show they care about their team’s well-being.

Employees want to feel trusted and appreciate having their input considered when asked about well-being at work and work-life balance. Employers can help by providing employees with proven tools to do their job well. Educational sessions in the form of lunch and learns can help keep employee morale elevated while providing new insight into various topics that enhance the way they work and manage their work day.

Wellness programs in organizations have always existed to a certain degree. Whether behind the scenes, or in plain sight, wellness initiatives comes in many shapes and forms: as a means to establish workplace safety measures, improve office ergonomics, initiatives to reduce chronic health conditions, and a vector to a healthy organizational culture.

Like many other important components of the corporate scene, wellness in the workplace is often postponed at the expense of other projects in the interest of short-term performance that yield quick results. By wellness we mean preventative non-medical means of taking care of ourselves. Employee well-being is a strategy and may also be one of the greatest competitive advantages in the modern economy.

The truth is, if an organization decides to catch the wellness wave as a means to increase short-term results such as increase sales for this quarter, it might work as a quick fix, but they might want to rethink their targeting for more sustainable workplace wellness. Helping people shift their mindset around stress can be a good start.

Research has shown that embracing stress versus fighting it along with looking at a challenge with a positive outlook and solution-oriented mindset versus a negative outlook can drop stress related symptoms by 23% according to positive psychologist Shawn Achor.

Regular wellness practice is a support system like accounting, reporting taxes, quality control, making sure your car is safe to drive, or home maintenance. It’s an ongoing process. The more your organization integrates wellness practices into their way of thinking, operating and living, the more benefits will flourish in the near and later futures thereby influencing work culture, productivity and a healthier bottom line.

Lunch and learns are a great segue-way to developing, establishing and reinforcing an organizational wellness culture in a safe and effective way. They are high touch, and require relatively low effort on the organization’s side to launch a session. Find out what your employees care for, align with your company wellness vision and strategies, and find a qualified service provider to deliver on the topic of choice.

Components of a Lunch and Learn

Lunch and Learn Roadmap

Time

Prior to finalizing a topic and booking a date, discuss the topic with the presenter. Here are some factors to consider:

  • The nature of the topic
  • Is it a series or one-time event?
  • How much time is needed to present something of substance on the topic?
  • Can the topic be broken down into smaller bites
  • Number of people attending
  • Access to a space that can accommodate the number of people in attendance to facilitate the delivery of the content
  • Company budget
  • What technology tools are needed and to be sure the presenter and the company facilitator are clear on their roles (example; introductions, screen sharing, Q&A time)

As a general rule we keep lunch and learns within one hour. It has to be as we say “short and sweet”.

Frequency

One-off Lunch and Learn

There is the one-time lunch and learn event. Great for those who want to explore how lunch and learns can impact your employees and organization.

The lunch and learn presentation is a perfect vehicle to introduce employees to a new system, change in processes, or to invest on a broader lunch and learn topic to stimulate feedback from employees on what would help them succeed.

Holding Lunch and Learn Series

Some management teams have clear organizational culture and wellness objectives in mind. They want to leverage lunch and learn series, sometimes the same presenter comes back for multiple sessions or different presenters may jump in to share expertise on a L&L event.

Lunch and learn series are immersive. Continuity and deeper dives on a topic over a period of time is great to reinforce a message and the ability to integrate the contents.

For instance, employees might engage in learning different stress management techniques. Since no one technique can please everyone, a seasoned stress relief practitioner will show different ways to release stress and live better. Varying techniques that may be appropriate in different situations such as how to stay focused and alert in a team setting, or calm before a high stakes meeting, on more relaxed while on the road driving in traffic, at home or with family.

How many times do we attend conferences where we are shown great techniques and ideas and we leave excited and stimulated yet as soon as we’re back in the day-to-day hustle the motivation dissipates. Ongoing monthly or weekly sessions can help integrate key learning’s for long term success.

Goals: Self-Development versus Developing Cooperation

Wellness habits can in some instances be very personal. People might need to reflect, internalize, focus on self-growth and want to be better with themselves, which later can have a positive impact on the organization. For instance, learning to appreciate ourselves and what we stand for through Appreciative Self-Inquiry, and become more aware to respect and welcome differences in others. Some of the best teams are often very diversified. Often referred to as requisite variety.

Other lunch and learn formulas may seek to stimulate better interactions in work groups, divisions, business units, and external stakeholders such as partners and suppliers.

Different Topics for Different Needs

From organizational wellness components such as nutrition, stress management strategies, fitness, emotional regulation, personal finance organization, relationship building or how to negotiate your first mortgage, etc. Lunch and learn topics can cover lots of ground.
Some lunch and learns teach us how to relearn how to have fun. Bringing play into our day is an important component to wellness. Think of the last time you had a good laugh or had a fun time with friends, family or co-workers. Play and laughter dissipate tension and stress. Social connection with others raises levels of optimism. Studies have proven that happiness, optimism and social connection will fuel greater well-being at work leading to higher productivity.

What Would Employees Like to Know more About?

For best results ask your talent what would help them get through their work and personal life with greater ease an insight? Avoid assuming or guessing what they might want. Questionnaires, surveys, direct conversation and user-centered design strategies all help unlock deeper needs and wants.
Avoid questions like “who would you like to hear from” or “what would you like to learn about”. Instead, use open ended questions when surveying and focus on what would help them make their work and personal life flow better. What are the challenges are you experiencing? Find their pain points. We can’t solve everything but we can try to make things easier.

Finding Balance

Balance is a keyword we love. We use it continuously because our way of life as we know it is not naturally geared toward balance. There are lots of distractions to steer us away from the equilibrium our body and mind require to function optimally.

Finding balance in organizations with lunch and learns

Balance is a keyword we love. We use it continuously because our way of life as we know it is not naturally geared toward balance. There are lots of distractions to steer us away from the equilibrium our body and mind require to function optimally.

We see this with professional athletes who benefit from a full service support team to help them develop and become better over time. An athlete cannot constantly only practice their sport during a training season. They need to take some time off to recover and develop lateral and complementary abilities for optimal performance.

In fact, in most sports athletes prepare themselves through an annual periodized plan and often include a variety of activities that have little to do with their main sport. These “on the side activities”, are designed to enhance their development with different skills to awaken problem solving skills, balance, coordination and agility along with teaching their nervous system to down-regulate for optimal rest and recovery thereby improving performance in the long run.

Athletes will taper their training prior to a big event or competition to keep their energy reserves for the main event. No athlete pushes 100% all the time. They don’t run a marathon the day before race day. Instead, shorter runs or recovery workouts may be encouraged, stretching, yoga, massage and tailored nutrition.

Rest and recovery cycles are needed to be their best on and off court. The same principles apply to “corporate athletes” to perform optimally and be their best day in and day out. Mental toughness and resilience is developed though physical fitness, adequate rest, mental and emotional training.
Complementary activities assist to get better over time. Employees are required to develop their skills to excel in a particular line of work. It’s very difficult to get good at everything; negotiating, selling, presenting and public speaking, leadership, management, budgeting, work-specific activities, etc. People get more out of breaking down their development the way athletes do. Bite-size learning is easier to integrate and fits better in busy schedules.

When should Lunch and Learns be Scheduled?

Company policy and commitment to employee development often guides this decision. Here are a few cues and nuggets of information based on our experience delivering numerous lunch and learns.
Decide when people are most available. Before lunch, during lunch or after lunch hour?

Send an invitation via e-mail and/or calendar invite: include the date and time of the event, the speaker, the topic, the meeting link, and any special instructions. Attract attention with an eye catching info-graphic.
Send an automatic reminder before the event to maximize attendance.

Beginning of the Workday

Some have tried at the beginning of the workday, but many people are not fully present and engaged since they may be distracted about interactions they had or will be having later in the day, important messages or responses they are expecting to receive, or they may have a preference for answering emails and voicemails in the morning to clear their mind before engaging into other activities.

Lunch Time

Although, the name lunch and learns may lead management to schedule these events during lunch hours, the evidence so far suggests that lunch and learns are better held outside (but close to) lunch hours. Yes, this means during working hours. Why you ask? Attendance. Most of our clients have found over time that attendance during lunch hours was weak. The side effect of holding these events slightly before or after lunch hours ensures most will participate and take part in the conversation once the event is over.
Most of our clients have opted for 11am before lunch hour, especially if the session is interactive to allow time to integrate their key take-away’s and to eat afterwards before returning to work.
Part of the benefit of a lunch and learn is born out of the interaction they generate. Healthy conversations on the lunch and learn’s topic promotes camaraderie. It allows people to exchange and interact on subjects other than work related issues. Social networks strengthens the wellness culture of your organization.

End of the Workday

Your talent might be tired after a long workday. Some lunch and learn topics may lend themselves better to the day’s end and help people disconnect from their long day. Something humorous, or an energizing workout to get the circulation going or even a relaxing session such as meditation or gentle movement is often welcome at this time of day.

If you want your people’s full focused attention it’s probably best to keep lunch and learn events closer to lunch time.

Of course, this decision is up to you and your management team to make in collaboration with the presenter.

Benefits of Lunch and Learns

Lunch and Learns cover a wide range of topics, there are unlimited opportunities for your employees to receive sessions to introduce them to new topics or sessions to help enhance their current skills.

  • Improve employee engagement
  • Build leadership skills 
  • Decrease employee turnover
  • Improved happiness, well-being, morale or motivation
  • More knowledgeable employees
  • Encourages teamwork

Key Takeaways to Prep for a Lunch and Learn Event

  • Survey your talent to find points to be leveraged with lunch and learn presentations,
  • Establish a budget for your lunch and learns,
  • Find a presenter who has the background and experience to deliver on the topic,
  • Decide on that sweet spot for the duration of the session, 30-60 minutes,
  • Establish whether a series would have better impact than a one-time presentation,
  • Schedule the event or series of lunch and learns and send invitations.

Lunch and learns are proving to be great tools to develop and promote our organizational culture and group cohesion. They also may be an excellent way to get to know a presenter and the company they represent before hiring them for a bigger project or buying into one of their other service offerings.
Like anything else in the business world, plan well, appreciate seeing your workforce engaged and motivated and reap the benefits of a healthier, happier team.

Who We Are

The Be Well 360 program by SOH develops corporate athletes. We help you and your team perform at your best when it matters most.

Just like pro athletes, we need balanced care to be top performers in life and at work.

The Be Well 360 organizational wellness program helps develop a culture of well-being through three main service offerings; Lunch and Learns to keep teams engaged along with our FastFit - Take a Break series and full online platform of curated, user-centered video resources.

Integrate guided inspirations and tips into each day. Our FastFit - Take a Break series of wellness breaks will leave your team feeling more positive, powerful, and peaceful leading to greater focus, productivity, and happiness. 

Discover a refreshed and redesigned approach to corporate wellness.
Be Well from the inside out. Stress less. Live more.


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