Themed lunches to promote cross-disciplinary thinking

Written by Hugo Chatel, on 10 October 2018

It's not always easy to find a quiet moment where different employees from various departments can discuss cross-cutting issues within the company. ENGEO has chosen certain lunchtimes to organize "noonies" to exchange on specific topics.

Companies are often criticized for working in silos, not mixing different departments, and especially not taking the necessary time to address issues that concern the entire company with all stakeholders. Faced with this observation, ENGEO has established what is often done informally: "noonies". These are breaks during lunchtime centered around a specific theme to which everyone is invited.

A practice reminiscent of Yannick's in one of our previous articles...

The topics are varied: some noonies are designed to discuss a problem occurring within a team. Collaborative engagement is then requested to help solve it, while others may be used to discuss new ideas or common questions to the management.

Once a month, one of these meetings is a bit different: it's the Business Strategy Noony. It's dedicated to sharing with employees the company's results and balance sheets, presenting successes and failures. Just like with the other noonies, employees can ask any questions and make proposals.

For some topics, such as the overall organization of the company, noonies are not sufficient. Therefore, the company has implemented the TBP, the Team Business Plan, once a year. On a Saturday, outside of working hours, all volunteers gather to exchange ideas and work on improvements to the company. Contrary to what many might think, almost all employees participate. At the end of the day, ideas are submitted to a vote by employees and ranked in order of priority.

An example from the last TBP day is the creation of the LIFT Initiative - Let's Innovate For Tomorrow. This internal committee, composed of volunteers, receives ideas from employees that have emerged during TBP or noonies, and helps formalize and implement them. Interestingly, the first achievement of LIFT was providing a new, larger room for the noonies, which had become victims of their own success. Among other changes requested by employees were the implementation of mentoring programs and the reorganization and opening up of workspaces to facilitate team collaboration. These changes are then particularly well-received by the company, which does its utmost to implement them.

These noonies and the TBP are a great way to engage employees in various company issues. We have spoken with several of them who affirmed that being able to participate in the development of new ideas that were not necessarily related to their expertise and daily work was stimulating and allowed them to have a pleasant time with colleagues they were not used to spending time with.

Employees appreciated that the company formalized its meetings that traditionally took place informally at the same time or during coffee breaks. Blocking out time and conducting internal communication to announce the noonies promotes stimulation and reflection in advance. Also, it is an effective way to have a "bottom-up" approach to the company since volunteer employees propose changes.