If you’ve had the chance to work with FMG over the past few years as a partner, client, or employee, you’ve probably noticed one personality attribute all of our employees embody – curiosity. Our team is made up of 70 people that are eager to learn something new, apply different approaches in their daily work, and interested in hearing the opinions and practices of those in similar fields – whether it be cognitive psych, I/O psychology, communication research, software development... the list goes on. In an effort to help employees keep growing personally and professionally, we implemented bi-monthly Lunch and Learns back in 2013. Two years later, Lunch and Learns have proved to be a great success and something we recommend other companies try.
Should Your Company Start Hosting Lunch and Learns?
In short, yes. Hosting Lunch and Learns is an important practice to engage employees, encourage sharing and communication, and it provides a chance for those that work on different teams to better understand and appreciate ALL that your company is capable of. In addition to sharing project work and technical coaching, they are the perfect platform to share other valuable information pertinent to employee’s daily lives – health and wellness, financial information, and work/life balance issues. Still interested?
Tips on Organizing Lunch and Learns in Your Office
If you think your company could benefit from this organized group activity, here are a few tips to make Lunch and Learns (or Brown Bags) a success:
- Decide on the frequency and day of week you’d like your Lunch and Learns to take place. Once this has been determined, create an excel schedule or Google doc that everyone can access. At FMG, we picked the first and third Wednesday of each month from noon to 1pm. As soon as it was decided, we blocked our largest conference room on the calendar for the entire year to ensure we had the space available.
- Get the word out! If this is a new practice, send an all-staff email to let them know your plans for starting Lunch and Learns. Make sure they know that the success of Lunch and Learns depends on their participation – to present, to attend, and to share with others. To begin, you might need to share a few suggested topics, or I’d suggest planting a few employees who are willing to be the guinea pigs. Participation often begets more participation.
- Plan for a wide variety of topics. At Fors Marsh Group, our teams cover different areas of expertise. Military research, behavioral economics, communication research, software development, business development, human resources, industrial organizational psychology, qualitative work… ok, you get my point. We cover a lot of ground. If you have one team that’s very eager to share, make sure they know it’s appreciated, but try to enlist other teams so that topics are staggered on the schedule. Also, to include everyone, consider topics that focus on professional skills separate from one field of study. For instance, at FMG, we could offer a LnL that speaks to ‘Keeping Your Cool When Speaking in Public: Master the Art of Public Speaking.’ That way, researchers and non-researchers can benefit.
- Make them accessible for those not in the office. It’s 2015. Chances are someone in your office works from home; you might have multiple office locations, or even have a few people traveling for client work. The technology is available – so take advantage and set up a call-in and/or GoToMeeting type platform. And, if employees are OOO but still interested – save the slides, prep some notes, and record audio so they can catch up in the evening or when their schedule allows.
If you are excited to get started but need help brainstorming, here are a few of the topics FMG has covered at recent Lunch and Learns:
Hopefully these ideas motivate you to put this practice in place. Keep us posted on your success and feel free to leave a comment on other ideas to engage employees and foster ongoing conversation.