Post: How to Host a Successful Lunch and Learn Program

Group of business employees attending a lunch and learn program

This post was last updated on January 9, 2024.

Are you looking for a great team-building activity or staff meeting idea? 

Do you want to bring your employees together in one place without all the noisy distractions of the office? 

If so, consider hosting a lunch and learn program!

Table of contents:

  1. Lunch and Learn for 2024
  2. Incorporate Lunch and Learn Programs Into Your Company Culture
  3. Steps to starting a lunch and learn program in the workplace
  4. Three Common Mistakes When Planning a Learn at Lunch Event
  5. Tips on how to make lunch with learning more successful 
  6. Why lunch and learns might not work for your company
  7. 25+ ideas for your next lunch and learn

Redefining Lunch and Learn for 2024?

Imagine it’s lunchtime, and as you take a break, the buzz of lively discussion catches your ear. It’s coming from a group of colleagues gathered not just for a meal but for something more – a shared learning experience.

Lunch and learn programs in 2024 have evolved into dynamic, hybrid events that blend personal growth with professional skills development, all within the span of a lunch hour. These sessions, accessible both in-person and virtually to accommodate remote teams, bring together industry experts or internal leaders to dive into a range of topics.

From the latest technological advancements and sustainability practices to leadership strategies and wellness tips, the scope has broadened to reflect the diverse interests and needs of the modern workforce.

What sets these events apart is their informal, interactive nature. They’re crafted to foster a sense of community and encourage open dialogue, making them more engaging than traditional workshops.

Each session is tailored to resonate with the unique culture of the organization or the specific interests of different teams, ensuring that every lunch and learn is not just informative but also directly relevant and immensely rewarding.

How do lunch and learn programs work?

In 2024, lunch and learn programs have adapted to meet the evolving dynamics of the workplace. These sessions are structured to fit seamlessly into the working day, often scheduled during the lunch hour to maximize convenience for all participants.

With flexibility at their core, these programs are also open to being organized in the evening, catering to the availability of team members who may have different schedules.

These gatherings typically span one hour, a perfect fit for the usual lunch break, and can accommodate groups of varying sizes – from intimate sessions of ten to larger groups that fill a room, depending on the space available.

The subject matter for these sessions is broad and can range from professional development topics to personal interest discussions, ensuring there’s always something for everyone.

The format of a lunch and learn in 2024 allows for a single expert or multiple guest speakers to lead the session, offering flexibility based on the depth of discussion desired and the time available.

This adaptability ensures that every lunch and learn is an opportunity for personal growth and learning, making it a valuable addition to any organization’s culture.

Why lunch and learns are beneficial

The value of lunch and learn programs extends far beyond just a break from the daily work grind. As we step into 2024, these sessions stand out as a key strategy for fostering a vibrant, engaged, and well-rounded workforce.

The advantages are multifaceted, offering everything from heightened employee engagement and stress reduction to spikes in productivity, a boost in creativity, and improved interpersonal communication within teams.

These programs serve as a platform for employees to broaden their horizons, gaining fresh insights and diverse viewpoints on various topics. This not only enriches their knowledge base but also sparks innovative ideas and solutions to workplace challenges, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability.

For companies to truly capitalize on the benefits, it’s crucial to structure these programs efficiently. Keeping sessions to a concise one-hour timeframe ensures that employees remain focused and absorbed without feeling overwhelmed.

The inclusion of a meal not only adds to the appeal, making attendees more inclined to participate, but also creates a relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning and discussion.

As long as the content is relevant and engaging, offering tangible value, employees will find these sessions both rewarding and worthwhile, solidifying lunch and learns as a cornerstone of organizational development in 2024.

Why lunch and learn programs are effective for work environments 

In today’s evolving work environments, with a mix of hybrid, remote, and in-person teams, lunch and learn programs have proven to be exceptionally effective.

These sessions offer a unique platform for employees across all work settings to deepen their understanding of the company, industry trends, and other personally relevant topics that often go unexplored in standard meetings.

Moving away from the formalities of traditional meeting subjects like project deadlines and financial updates, lunch and learns introduces a more relaxed atmosphere focused on personal and professional growth. They facilitate cross-training, enhance life skills, and encourage professional development in a way that resonates with the dynamic needs of today’s workforce.

This shift towards less work-centric and more development-oriented discussions is not just refreshing but essential.

It helps bridge the gap between different team structures, ensuring that whether team members are dialing in from home, joining from the office, or participating in a hybrid format, everyone has the opportunity to engage, learn, and grow together.

Four employees attending a breakfast lunch and learn training session

Everyone thinks and learns better with food!

How to Incorporate Lunch and Learn Programs Into Your Company Culture

Lunch and learn programs are a great way to make sure that employees are continuing their education, learning new things, and improving on skills. All while meeting over lunch!

Lunch and learn programs can be used for any topic from basic computer training to the latest in marketing techniques. It’s also a good chance for your company to show its appreciation of employees by hosting lunch and learns with food provided by the company.

In order to get started, you should first decide what type of lunch and learn program will work best for your company.

  • Do you want something general or specific?

  • How often do you want to host lunch and learns?

  • What is your budget?

Once you’ve decided on these questions it’s time to find someone who specializes in lunch-and-learn programs.

First look within your company. Has your HR department or someone in management ever hosted a lunch and learn before? If not you may need to hire an outside company.

A good lunch-and-learn expert will have a few lunch-and-learn ideas to choose from, or even create one on the fly. 

See what lunch and learn program is best for your company culture by talking with different lunch-and-learn providers.

Doing lunch and learns as frequently as possible will show employees that the company is interested in their continued education, and are a great addition to any company culture calendar.

After you’ve selected a program that works best for your company, it’s time to get some lunch!

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Don’t miss a step in planning your first workplace lunch and learn.

Steps to starting a lunch and learn program in the workplace. 

Lunch and learn programs are a great way to capitalize on relaxed lunch time conversations. Here are 10 steps to organizing and hosting a lunch and learn program in your workplace:

  1. Find a lunch room or conference room.

  2. Decide on a date and time.

  3. Brainstorm 3 to 5 topics that you think people might be interested in learning about. Maybe even consider a theme that will pique people’s interest.

  4. Survey employees or team members for which topic or new skill training they are most interested in.

  5. Invite lunch and learn speaker(s) and confirm availability.

  6. Create an agenda for the lunch and learn sessions

  7. Set up lunch time slots for people to sign up for lunch and learn sessions

  8. Promote your lunch and learns by sending out emails, posting on social media, or inviting colleagues to join you at the next session!

  9. Prepare or order a simple lunch but make it tasty!

  10. Monitor attendance so you don’t have too many no shows; this will ensure successful future events as well.

From seating arrangements to catering services, lunch and learns often require an investment on behalf of the organization hosting it.

Despite this investment, lunch and learns can be worth it if you are able to avoid these common mistakes.

Three Common Mistakes When Planning a Learn at Lunch Event

1) Not inviting all possible participants

To ensure maximum attendance, lunch and learn sessions should be publicized to as many employees in the organization as possible. Sending out an email invitation or creating a poster for lunch and learns can do just that.

Pro tip: have attendees sign up for specific time slots and place a cap on attendance to prevent overcrowding.

2) Not being prepared

Lunch and learn sessions don’t have to be highly formal, but they shouldn’t be too informal as well. The tone of these lunch and learn sessions should reflect the event’s purpose: educational. Presentations and discussions should be thought out and rehearsed in advance.

3) Launching training events too frequently

One lunch and learn session a month may sound great, but employees may think it’s too much. Especially if you have other team building events and activities planned.

4) Not catering lunch

Lunch and learns are more likely to be successful when good food is present. Providing a free lunch to employees attending a session will not only increase their engagement but also provide a great incentive for employees to attend, after all this experience is not like your typical lunch.

All in all, lunch and learn training sessions are an effective way for organizations to bring employees together, even those with remote employees.

Tips on how to make lunch with learning more successful 

Three ways you can make your next lunch and learn “wow” employees!

  1. Get creative with your training sessions by providing demonstrations and real-life examples. The more your audiences can identify with the topic, the easier it will be to remember what you’ve taught them.

  2. Play a game, incorporate a 5 minute team building activity or begin the session with some friendly icebreaker questions.

  3. Take your lunch breaks off site. While this tip will add to the overall expense, getting your employees and teammates outside and away from the office is always a great way to enhance the lunch and learn experience.

  4. Hire a professional speaker.

Hire a lunch and learn speaker who will grab an audience’s attention, engage their interest and hold their gaze throughout the lunch hour.

Having two speakers can always work nicely. Consider one host the MC (master of ceremonies) and the other the educator so to speak. Your MC will keep things light while your educator will deliver the program lesson.

Quick check in: why lunch and learns might not work for your company

In the evolving workplace landscape of 2024, it’s crucial to assess whether lunch and learns align with your company’s culture and operational dynamics.

For environments that maintain a high level of formality or are customer-facing, such as retail spaces or public services, integrating these sessions might pose challenges to customer interaction or service quality.

Similarly, settings like call centers, where continuous coverage is essential, might find it difficult to accommodate lunch and learns without excluding some team members due to scheduling conflicts.

Furthermore, companies operating under strict shift schedules or those concerned about the implications of extended lunch hours on wage calculations might find traditional lunch breaks more practical.

Additionally, the frequency of lunch and learn sessions requires careful consideration to avoid potential disruptions in daily workflows or office harmony.

As we navigate the future of work in 2024, with an increasing shift towards hybrid and remote teams, it’s worth exploring alternative formats and timings for professional development opportunities that better suit the diverse needs of modern workplaces.

Top list of 25+ ideas for your next lunch and learn

Here’s a diverse range of topics and themes designed to appeal to hybrid, remote, and in-person teams alike:

  1. Mindfulness and Stress Management: Techniques for staying calm and focused.

  2. Time Management Skills: Strategies for effective time use and productivity boosts.

  3. Financial Wellness: Basic financial planning, investments, and savings tips.

  4. Creative Problem Solving: Encouraging innovative thinking in everyday tasks.

  5. Leadership Skills for the Future: Cultivating leadership at all levels.

  6. Effective Remote Work Strategies: Best practices for working from home efficiently.

  7. Health and Nutrition: Basics of a healthy diet and quick, nutritious recipes.

  8. Introduction to Coding: Basics for non-tech employees.

  9. Public Speaking and Presentation Skills: Tips for confident speaking and engaging presentations.

  10. Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Understanding and managing emotions for better professional relationships.

  11. Diversity and Inclusion: Fostering an inclusive culture.

  12. Personal Branding: Building and maintaining a professional image online.

  13. Cybersecurity Basics: Protecting personal and company data online.

  14. Project Management Tools and Techniques: Overview of popular project management software and methodologies.

  15. The Future of Industry: Trends and innovations in your specific industry.

  16. Work-Life Balance: Finding harmony between professional and personal life.

  17. Sustainability at Work: Implementing eco-friendly practices in the office.

  18. Team Building for Hybrid Teams: Strengthening connections in a dispersed work environment.

  19. Professional Networking Tips: Expanding and nurturing professional connections.

  20. Yoga and Desk Exercises: Staying active in a sedentary work lifestyle.

  21. Mental Health Awareness: Recognizing and supporting mental health in the workplace.

  22. Language Learning: Basics of a new language relevant to your team or industry.

  23. Book Club: Discuss a relevant book or article series.

  24. Art and Culture: Exploring art, music, and culture for creativity and inspiration.

  25. Travel and World Cultures: Learning about different cultures and customs.

  26. Innovation at Work: How to foster an innovative mindset.

  27. Nutrition and Cooking Demo: A live cooking session focusing on quick and healthy meals.

These ideas are designed to cater to a variety of interests and learning objectives, ensuring there’s something for everyone. By rotating through different themes, you can keep the content fresh and engaging, encouraging continuous participation and fostering a culture of growth and curiosity.

Lunch and learn programs are a great way to bring your employees together. They can be difficult, however, if you have an office lunch with everyone crowded around one or two tables things can get awkward quick.

Not all businesses suit lunch and learns, so it’s important to survey employees or colleagues in advance to see if there’s interest before you host a lunch training session. Some employees are protective over their lunchtime.

The more creative you get with these events – from hiring professional speakers who will grab their attention during lunch time all while being engaging – the better chance it has at success!

Thinking of implementing this type of program as a way to enhance  employee engagement? We can help!

Woyago has been organizing and hosting virtual events for corporations like Apple, Google, and Airbnb since 2020. Our goal is to connect, laugh, and learn. Contact us today!

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