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Apr 10, 2017

You found the perfect candidate and they start today. Everyone is happy and your job is done. Not! Without the proper training and development opportunities, all the resources that went into finding that perfect employee could be a waste.

A SHRM survey found 39% of HR personnel believe maintaining high levels of employee engagement is the most crucial human capital challenge. Meanwhile, career development and growth are important to employees, especially to millennial workers.

So, how do you keep employees engaged and help grow their careers?

Here’s one way: lunch and learns. A thoughtfully designed lunch and learn program focused on training and development can help retain talent and save money. And really, who won’t engage when there’s free lunch?

Foster employee development

Of course, one of the more important benefits of lunch and learns is employee development. Whether the content of the lunch and learn is directly related to a job function, like the basics of search engine optimization, or is more broadly focused on life skills, like how to be an expert communicator, it lets employees know that their growth is important to the company. It also helps the company cultivate skills within existing employees, giving them a broader internal talent pool to tap when new opportunities arise.

The goal is to provide training sessions that will arm employees with valuable information that teaches them something new, helps them excel within the company, or even improves their interpersonal skills.

Here are a few topic ideas to consider for a lunch and learn program:

  1. Managing conflict at work – A hands-on training, possibly with a trainer and role-playing scenarios.
  2. Goal oriented work – Tips for how to organize your work to move away from projects and toward testing, learning, and driving outcomes.
  3. How to create an extra hour every day – Time management strategies that help you make the most out of the time you have.

Build relationships

Getting your whole team together to eat lunch – or even agree on what to eat – can certainly be a challenge. That being said, SHRM’s research shows two elements tied as the engagement condition with which most employees reported being satisfied (77%): relationship with co-workers, and opportunities to use their skills/abilities in their work. Career growth, was found satisfactory by just 57%.

Workplace social events, such as team lunches, allow employees to mingle with coworkers with whom they don’t typically interact on a daily basis, which can only help improve satisfaction levels.

Warby Parker is an example of one company that has made it easy for new and existing employees to meet each other through a “Lunch Roulette” program. The program uses software to randomly select groups of four people to eat lunch together on the company’s tab, ensuring each group has no more than one person from each department. This way, employees get to know members of other departments in a more intimate group setting.

Encourage work breaks

Work-life balance isn’t just the latest fad for employee engagement in the workplace. Overworked, stressed employees are costing employers in lost productivity and burnout is impacting retention.

Hosting a lunch and learn with an engaging and fun topic forces employees to take a moment to breathe, de-stress, and take a break in the middle of the day.

Improve company transparency

It’s not uncommon for employees to feel out of the loop, especially at large companies. Company-focused lunch and learns can help employees feel part of the bigger picture and become more engaged with their coworkers’ roles.

Set up a cadence of lunch and learns where an executive shares company information or an employee shares details about a new project and how their role contributes to the company’s success. This builds coworker appreciation and a better understanding of how the company operates.

Organizing a training session to go along with a catered team lunch can have a big impact on increasing employee engagement and building relationships. As a result, companies can cut the stress and business costs associated with high employee turnover.

Ultimately, employees give you one-third of their day. Taking steps to ensure they are given training and development opportunities not only helps your business, it’s just the right thing to do.

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