01/21/2019

BY GRACE HOGAN & COURTNEY MCILVOY

Would you think it was a waste of time if an employee hosted a presentation about the Oscars during work hours? Here’s what happened when Sendero moved away from requiring elective training hours to highlighting our team members’ interests through presentations, from cloud migration to wine tasting.


For years, we have had employee-driven presentations called Brown Bags. These informal lunchtime trainings are designed to foster knowledge sharing and development opportunities by creating a space for our people to educate one another.

Though the program had value, employees volunteering to present were limited and attendance began to dip. We recognized that there were some issues with its structure and processes, so we asked for feedback. Our employees told us the inconsistency in scheduling and lack of topic variety discouraged them to present and attend. Equipped with this information, we tackled enhancing the existing framework to make the program more valuable.

Our Organizational & Learning Development team worked to design a new and improved Brown Bag program that was introduced in early 2018. What updates did we make? Well, we fixed four main areas:

Timing: We shortened the length of the Brown Bag presentations to give our consultants time to travel to and from their client sites.

Variety: No one wants to hear the same thing every week, but we also did not want people to go completely rogue. To create structure, but encourage a variety of presentation topics, we created four categories presenters could choose from:

  • Leadership Development: Skills and practices that develop leaders for our company, clients, and communities
  • Thought Provoking: Interesting articles, videos, or ideas such as industry trends or work-life balance tips
  • Project Insight: Project success stories and tips from our client teams
  • Peoples’ Passion: Employee passions (traveling on a budget, community service opportunities, and yes—even the Oscars)

Simplicity: The simpler, the better! We created a standard online presenter interest form and communication plan that allows people to share their ideas and prepare awesome, engaging content.

Accessibility: Understandably, not everyone can always make it into the office on Fridays. To make participation more convenient, we added a call-in option for our remote participants. We also upload all presentation materials in Sendero’s learning management tool, Degreed, where people can check out the materials or take the course virtually if they would like.

Yes, these updates streamlined our processes. More importantly, we have seen strong results after implementing these changes – close to 30% of our organization attend or call into any given Brown Bag. Additionally, over 80% of our people use Degreed to reference Brown Bag materials. The successful refresh of our Brown Bag program illustrates that by putting your people in driver’s seat of their own learning, you can enhance engagement, participation, and effectiveness.

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