Monday, June 29, 2009

Are “lunch and learns” bad for business?

“Lunch and learn” programs are used by countless businesses to fit training and development into everyone’s busy day by turning employees’ lunchtime into informal training sessions.

While some feel that squeezing more learning into our jam-packed days with “lunch and learns” is a boon for business, others strongly believe that they can be quite a bother.

Nick Milton of Bath, UK, recently explained why he thinks “lunch and learns” are a bad idea in a post last week. While learning during lunchtime makes sense at first glance, it may be sending employees the wrong message. He writes:

But what message are you giving? You are giving the message that learning and knowledge sharing is not something that should be a priority during working hours, and should be fitted into spare lunchtimes. You are giving the message that learning is not real work, to be done during work time. You are giving the message that learning is something you can do while eating, and that you don't need to give it full attention. You are making the tacit assumption that people will not turn up to learn something unless you bribe them with cookies.

If learning is important, don’t relegate it to lunchtime. How many other business activities would you hold at lunchtime, so people could eat as they participated? Would you have "lunch and budgeting?" "lunch and project planning?" lunch and personal appraisal?" "lunch and recruitment interviewing?" No you wouldn't, so why relegate learning to lunchtime? (read the full post)

We’ve written before on the benefits of “lunch and learn” training, and how it can help businesses save money and improve employee productivity. But what works for one person or company may fail with another and it’s our job to learn from both sides of the equation.

So, we want to know what side you’re on. Have you tried “lunch and learn” seminars? Are you a fan? Why or why not?

Please leave a comment and tell us about it.


Dan McCarthy said...

Milton sounds like a Grinch. Lunch & learns are voluntary, and our employees love them. And yes, unfortunately, I have done “lunch and conference calls”, “lunch and project reviews”, and “lunch and budgeting”. Welcome to the real world.

Lois Melbourne said...

I think for the right topics and purpose lunch & learns are great. When the learning benefits from the community building of dining together it is especially valuable. We also find that discussions flow easy when eating and relaxing is included.

Some topics would not be good in this environment, like harrassement.

Also, yes I lunch and interview. Dining with an applicant is very telling.

Lori said...

As a former participant in Lunch and Learns and now a Business Etiquette Protocol Trainer and Coach, I can say without reservation that employees love an interactive session during lunch where they can learn about business development and/or subject matters to increase productivity or save time/money. Lunch and Learns are not only necessary in hectic business environments today, it is pivotal to specific industry success.
Lori Gersh

Cheryl said...

Although I thought people would like them, I'm finding that Lunch and Learn (brown bag) isn't working too well here. Most don't bring their lunch and then the others feel awkward eating in front of them. Smelly/messy lunches are also an issue.

When we provide the food, then it is very different. Class differences melt away and the subtle message is "training is valuable enough for our 'employer' to invest" in it.

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