Lunch & Learn programs—informal meetings that happen over lunch—are a great way to develop employee skills and knowledge while boosting morale. After all, who doesn’t like a free lunch? They are typically voluntary and more casual than mandatory training sessions. Despite their benefits, many companies stopped holding Lunch & Learns when workplaces went virtual. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, “A slight majority—52 percent—are not conducting any team-building activities with U.S. employees working remotely.”
Now that we know that remote working is here to stay, it’s time to consider virtual Lunch & Learn programs. In addition to providing useful information, they offer employees the interaction they may be craving after working for so long on their own.
Here are nine tips on how to structure an online Lunch & Learn for your employees that they will enjoy and your company will benefit from. Read through to the end to access our free Lunch & Learn checklist that includes 25 topic ideas!
The first step is to determine why you want to hold a virtual Lunch & Learn. Is it to increase industry knowledge? For professional development? To improve morale? Expand life skills? Make sure to ask employees for input on what they would like to learn about. Empowering employees by letting them have a say in the virtual Lunch & Learn topic is a morale booster in itself.
Topic knowledge is important, but sometimes the people who know the most about a topic are not the best at presenting it. You’ll want a presenter who can make a connection with the virtual audience and keep them interested.
Will your Lunch & Learn be open to everyone in the company or a specific audience? If your topic is a general one that everyone can benefit from, consider opening it up to all employees.
You can host the meeting yourself or hire a company to do it for you. Hiring a third party involves researching the right company for your needs and budget and will be more expensive than doing it yourself. It also takes the technical side of the program off your plate so you can concentrate on content and conducting the meeting.
If you decide to host it yourself, Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting are popular choices. Whichever platform you choose, make sure participants can share screens, chat, and “raise their hands” for questions and comments. The ability to record the meeting is important for employees in different time zones or for those who would like to replay it.
Recommended reading: How to Throw a Great Virtual Health Fair
Lunch may be in the name, but it doesn’t have to dictate the time for your Lunch and Learn. Give your employees some options on times for the program and let them decide via a virtual vote what works best for them. It might be the first hour of the workday before they get into their day-to-day tasks. Or perhaps the last hour after they’ve wrapped up their responsibilities for the day and can relax while tuning in. Giving employees a voice in determining the time is an easy way to foster employee engagement.
This can be a bit trickier for a virtual event, but it is possible. Here are two popular options for a virtual lunch:
Once the specifics are figured out, it’s time to publicize. Use calendar invites along with email and the company intranet to build excitement.
Honor everyone’s time by setting and sticking to start and stop times. Begin by sharing house rules such as staying on mute. Depending on how many attendees you have, consider an ice breaker. The “Guess Who?” game lets colleagues learn more about each other and can be especially good for remote workers who have never met. Ask participants to write down a fact about their life that their co-workers would find interesting. Have the moderator read the fact and give the audience an opportunity to guess who it is about. Another idea is to share a funny picture and ask for caption ideas in the chat box. Make sure to include time at the end of your virtual Lunch & Learn for questions and comments.
Maintain employee engagement after the online Lunch & Learn by collecting feedback. What did they like? What would they change? What topics would they like to see covered? How often would they like to attend these programs?
You may also generate interest from employees who want to be part of the next Lunch & Learn that your company hosts. Welcome new ideas and topics — it can help spark employee creativity, morale, and engagement.
Working remotely is here to stay. Virtual Lunch & Learn programs for employees are a great way to strengthen team connections and build engagement for your workers, wherever they happen to be.
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