Business lunch meetings can be a great opportunity to engage your small business employees in learning and knowledge-sharing. Whether you call them "brown bag lunches" or "lunch-and-learns," the idea is to bring your team together in an informal setting to discuss things that are relevant to their work and their lives. The following are helpful ideas for monthly lunch meetings that can help drive involvement and employee education.

Skills Coaching

Why not ask your top salesperson to explain how s/he succeeds in their role? Consider asking your best marketing person to discuss how creativity can help steer the business. Everybody wins when they learn best practices from your most valuable employees. It's also a way to reward your top employees by asking them to serve as company-wide ambassadors for the skills in which they excel.

Stress Management/Health & Wellness

Wellness is an increasingly popular topic for employees, touching on health and productivity. It covers a wide range of issues from nutrition to exercise to mindfulness and more. You can invite a stress-management expert, for example, to help all of your employees better manage their work and health.

Time Management

You might ask your employees to read a book about time management such as David Allen's "Getting Things Done" or Stephen R. Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," and then organize a business lunch as a book club discussion. Consider inviting an author or time-management expert to facilitate the discussion, or ask a member of your leadership team.

Practical Ideation Tips

It's vital to ensure the topics are relevant to your team. Ask them, in a variety of ways, to suggest topics that they want to focus on. You might send out an email to employees seeking suggestions, set up a focus group made up of employees from each department or use a suggestion box.

It's also a good idea to vary your topics to drive engagement. If all your brown bag lunches are about "best practices in software development," don't be surprised if only your technically-inclined employees show up. Include such things as technology, business writing, better presentations, negotiating skills, personal finance and other topics that may be of interest.

Other Considerations

Be sure to market your business lunch meetings. Good marketing communication might include posters in the places where people congregate, a page on your website with details about the topics and speakers, a regular email blast and posts to your social media platforms.

Additionally, ensure the meetings are interactive. Ask your speakers to prepare handouts, make short presentations and then open up for a more interactive style of questions and answers. Allow your employees to share their experiences and engage in an inclusive discussion. A one-way lecture won't drive much engagement, unless the speaker is mesmerizing.

Setting up a regular, company-wide business lunch meeting is a wonderful opportunity for your staff to learn and meet coworkers in an informal, interactive setting. Please note that employers with nonexempt employees must be sure to comply with state meal and rest break requirements. If lunches are not optional, nonexempt employees must be compensated for that time.

Follow the tips and suggestions above to get started, but to make these lunches sustainable, follow the suggestions of your employees.

Tags: business lunch meetings team-building employee learning Employee Engagement