A brown bag lunch is an informal opportunity for employees to learn at work. Brown bag lunch originally referred to the practice of employees bringing a lunch packed in a brown bag from home or a carry-out lunch to an informal learning opportunity in the workplace. (Of course, modern convenience storage containers were not the thing when the concept of a brown bag lunch originated.)
Brown bag lunch, as a term, has come to represent any brief informal employee education or training opportunity that is supplied during work or non-work hours in the workplace.
Hence the name, brown bag lunch, recognizes that these lunches may be learning opportunities that are supplied during the employees' lunch break. Brown bag lunches are also held at the beginning or end of a workday, too, and occasionally, during the evening or weekend.
Topics for Brown Bag Lunches
A brown bag lunch is used to convey work information occasionally, especially on topics that all employees need to know. It might include HR mandatory training, company-wide policy changes, and industry and market trends. (For required brown bag lunch sessions, the employer usually holds them outside of lunchtime or provides lunch to compensate employees for their time fairly.)
A brown bag lunch can also serve to enhance employee knowledge about non-work related topics such as saving for retirement or healthy eating. The third type of brown bag lunch frequently offered might cover job-specific issues and ideas. For example, all managers receive training in the art of saying thank you to employees.
Topics for a brown bag lunch are limited only by your imagination. They range from viewing slides of a coworker's vacation trip to a visit from a local banker to discuss maximizing the potential return that employees can earn by saving.
Brown Bag Lunches Are Just One Format for Internal Employee Training
Would you like to understand why in-house training is effective and important for employees—and the value that it will bring for your investment? If you haven't thought about offering some training internally, I'm encouraging you to consider your options.
The core article about training options lists the various ways that organizations can provide training to employees. While some of the methods involve attendance at external training programs and seminars, am a firm believer in the power of the development activities and the training that employees do internally. A brown bag lunch is one example of internal training. Another is weekly in-house training.
Why Should You Provide Internal Training?
Internal training and development leaps over the huge barriers that encumber external training. It reflects a solid knowledge of the organization's culture. The internal training uses real-life examples, problems, and challenges that participants encounter every day at work.
Successful internal training identifies the exact skills and knowledge that the participants need to succeed in their jobs. It also prepares employees for success in their next job. The best in-house training also includes the employee's manager who either participated in the training earlier or elects to attend with his or her direct reports.
It ensures that the employees who attend the training will experience support on the job as they attempt to apply the training. And, isn't this the point of training? That employees apply the new information on the job. Right. It is much more difficult with training that is provided from an external source.
In-house training is presented in the language and terminology that participants can relate to and understand. Acting as an internal trainer develops the skills of employees and cements their knowledge of the topic.
The best way to make sure that an employee thoroughly understands a topic is to ask the employee to train others.
6 Solid Reasons to Do Internal Training
Internal training has a solid place in most organizations. These are six reasons why it is so important.
- Internal trainers, even if they are consultants who work with your organization frequently, know your employees and your culture. They know the inner workings of your organization, and they can tailor the objectives of the training to the needs of your organization.
- Internal trainers speak the language of your organization. They can present the training so that it reinforces common concepts and terminology. Adults do learn best when they can connect the current training information to knowledge that they already have.
- Internally presented training can reach all employees so that managers are receiving the same training and concepts as the employees. It is helpful with training reinforcement and transfer to the job.
- Employees who have received training can be coached and prepared to train other employees. Nothing cements the content of the training in an employee's mind as quickly as the fact that the employee needs to be prepared to train other employees. It is also a measurement of how much an employee has learned.
- Your internal trainers can work with scheduling training so that managers and employees attend. They can monitor and teach employees how to train others. But most importantly, they can monitor and assist with training transfer to make sure that activities before, during, and after the training reinforce moving the training concepts to the application of the training on the job.
- Finally, internal trainers do add value. Any training or Human Resources department knows what value they deliver and add to the organization every day. So do their fellow employees. But, it is important to think in terms of senior managers who may not have regular access to their work and contribution. You can prove your value. Periodically calculate and present your value-add in terms of cost savings, company initiatives supported and implemented, internal procedures and policies trained that no outsider would know, and so forth.
Find out more about why you might want to offer brown bag lunches as one of many internal training options for employees. Additional topics for brown bag lunches and other internal training sessions are also suggested.