How to Leverage Lunchtime for Learning

How to Leverage Lunchtime for Learning

The What, Who, Why, and How to Create a 3-Way Win for Employee Development

You might have been exposed to the idea of Lunchtime Learning before. Sometimes called Brown Bag Training or Lunch ‘n Learn (beware – that’s a trademarked phrase!), it’s a short (45-90 minutes) learning session held during lunchtime. Topics for these sessions can be work-related, health-related, or absolutely unrelated to the work of the organization (like the time my photographer brother led a session at my employer about improving your family and vacation photo quality).


Okay, what’s so special about these Brown-Bag Sessions, you say? Here’s my suggestion for ratcheting them up to significantly increase their value to your organization and staff: Have employees do the teaching, not just the learning!

You don’t have to hire outside trainers, pay big experts, or even beg favors of consultants and professionals to come into your workplace to hold free lunchtime workshops. You have tons of experts and teachers right in your midst, by way of your employees.

If you want to create lunchtime learning opportunities for your employees, why not invite their colleagues and peers to lead the sessions? Employees have lots of knowledge, insights and ideas. They need an opportunity to share them more widely.

For some, it’s a turnkey opportunity since they already have good presentation and facilitation skills. For others, it’s an amazing development opportunity that allows them to speak to their peers in a relatively low-pressure environment, on topics with which they have great familiarity (or about which they want to learn more), and for short durations that allow just enough ‘outside the comfort zone’ development without going into the ‘panic zone’ of full-day workshops or large or public audiences.

That’s what I mean by the Three-Way Win: you get three types of organization value in one short session:

1.       Lunch connections– community & togetherness; sometimes, the organization even provides the chow.

2.       Learning – get new info, tips, how to, ideas, solutions, etc., during a small window of time to open new opportunities, advance employees’ skills and knowledge, and increase organization’s effectiveness and success

3.       Teaching to Learn – the third aspect of this three-way win is a side that is less obvious and less used: old Japanese proverb: “to teach is to learn”

You see? Lunchtime learning is a three-way win for the organization and its employees. [Tweet it!]


As I wrote in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, in the “Teaching to Learn” chapter, “[a]ny employee, at any level, from any department, can initiate, design, develop, or present a workshop or a brown-bag session.”

For example, employees who could benefit from this development method may be those with:

{C}·         Expertise on a topic, product, process, idea, or solution

{C}·         A story of a challenge they faced and overcame

{C}·         A desire to learn more about a problem, product, or process with which they did not yet have expertise

{C}·         A desire to develop their facilitation or presentation skills, regardless of the topic

I even included a readiness self-assessment in my book to help you or your employees check their own readiness to take on this kind of development challenge. Check it out.


The benefit to the employees who attend the session is pretty obvious – they increase their awareness, knowledge, and/or skills about the topic covered.

In addition, the employees who lead such a session benefit greatly:

·         They get to practice preparing and delivering a short presentation or workshop.

·         They increase their own knowledge about the topic

·         They increase their visibility and reputation in the organization as internal experts, and

·         They grow their own network within the organization.

But organizations benefit no less from supporting this 3-way win. They increase employee development opportunities with no or low costs. They cross-train employees and connect people across different parts of the organization. In addition to numerous other benefits, organizations also create fertile opportunities for problem resolution and process improvement.

Can you think of other benefits? Share them in the comments below!


Here are the general steps for setting up this lunchtime treasure-trove of triple-win learning, straight from my book (where I elaborate further):

1.       Identify potential topics for brown-bag sessions.

2.       Identify potential speakers.

3.       Schedule the sessions – are they one-off sessions or a series? Face-to-face or virtual?

4.       Advertise the session(s).

5.       Register participants (optional – you could go low-key if you don’t plan to track learning and/or don’t have space issues).

6.       Evaluate and apply improvements based on feedback.

And for the presenter, I suggest the following tips:

·         Choose a topic about which you can be both knowledgeable and passionate to ensure maximum success.

·         Preparation is your key to success. Don’t wing it.

·         Practice, practice, practice!

What do you think – have you ever considered the third prong of the full value proposition of lunchtime learning? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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