How do I pull off a “Lunch and Learn?”

Dear Ken Keller,

One area that I know would help my employees and the company would be more training.

I can’t afford to send people offsite because we need everyone here to take care of customers and fulfill orders. The workshops I receive mailings about are out of my price range. Plus I’d like to do something with lasting impact and that will cover varied topics and require multiple sessions.

Do you have any suggestions how I can provide the training onsite and in such a way that our daily business is not disrupted?

—Jeff A.

Dear Jeff,

Investing in your employees is always a safe bet for improving productivity, having more efficient operations and engaging your employees.

Most of your employees will appreciate the investment you are making. Some will not.
You will need to explain not just the “how we are doing this” but more importantly, “this is why we are doing this.”

As you start down this path, you will need to be clear about the topics where you see training is needed, what the goals are for each topic and who should be attending each session. What you are doing is creating a program framework for your speakers to create a specific workshop curriculum.

To address the cost and time constraint issue, consider “lunch and learn” sessions where you bring in lunch for your employees and you hire local professionals to come in to teach short sessions on your selected topics.

As an alternative, you can schedule sessions either first thing in the morning and bring in donuts, bagels and coffee or in the late afternoon and bring in cookies, cupcakes and coffee.

For each session, the speaker needs to create a snappy title to get people excited about attending. Having someone show up to teach “How to make effective collection calls” is a sure way to have any employee call in sick that day so they won’t have to attend.

But an hour long workshop on “Learn how you can help earn a raise!” will have people inquiring about what this workshop is all about. You may find more employees willing to make those unpleasant calls once they discover a financial incentive for doing so.

Sessions should be short, about an hour, with not more than 12 participants. Having a larger audience will inhibit participation. Each session will need an agenda, deliverables and materials for those attending.

Allow plenty of time for questions and answers. Not every speaker is effective at facilitating participation but having that skill is critical to have an interactive session which is best for adult learners.

Be prepared for some negativity in the first several sessions because some individuals will clearly want to be somewhere else — anywhere else. If this happens, you will need to personally coach those individuals, making your expectations clear.

Consider having sessions without managers and supervisors in attendance. Sometimes the presence of someone in a position of authority will squash anyone asking questions of significance, especially if this individual is not in favor of the educational opportunity being provided and believes it is a waste of time.

To counter that, you will need to sell your managers and supervisors on this program individually. If you believe that one of them can perform training, have they can create the curriculum and you approve it.

Finally I recommend you reach out to your employment attorney to discuss how this program can be conducted for your hourly employees. They can guide you to make sure that you are legally compliant.