A recipe for training

Dec 10, 2023

Learning takes time and effort – but the end results can be as rewarding as making your favorite meal.

My department holds weekly meetings in which we cover upcoming tasks and events, what we are each working on, and anything else that needs follow-up. Regardless of the topic, we always begin our department meetings with a fun question.

After several years of working remotely, the questions have become a little repetitive. I recently suggested that once a month we select a food (the first was “potatoes”) and all take the following month to find or create a recipe using that ingredient. We would then share our recipe with the rest of the department as a new way to start a meeting. At first, I was uncertain how this would work, but it led to a new way of learning about the other people in the department. What type of potato did everyone use? Was the dish savory or sweet? Who followed a recipe and who made one up? This concept got me to think – and research – what are the benefits of cooking outside of potential health benefits?

Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, Director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, was quoted in a Cleveland Clinic article stating, “Many brain processes involved in getting dinner on the table are classified as executive functions. Executive functions test our ability to organize, prioritize, sustain focus, solve problems, retrieve memories, and multitask.”

As a training professional, I wanted to align the development of a training program with that of following a recipe and cooking. So, let’s go through the steps. Think about your favorite meal: eggplant parm, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, tacos, pizza, ramen – you choose. When you make your favorite meal, there are several components:

  • The ingredients. Every training course starts with an outline. What are the main objectives that should be accomplished by the end and what are the essential tools for learners to achieve that goal? This is the course outline.
  • The steps. The outline is then expanded into detailed steps or a presentation – this is what you present to the audience, so they know how to take the information and put it into action. This is the presentation in written form.
  • Cooking. Once the steps are presented, the audience is given the opportunity to try out the new steps they learned. A practice run if you will. During this stage, learners still have the assistance of the instructor, learning guides, and any other tools that are provided during the training. This is the presentation in action.
  • Testing the output (eating). Now to everyone’s favorite part, let’s eat! After the class is over, the learners are sent out into the world to try what they learned. During this stage, learners are beginning to reinforce what they absorbed during the class and begin to commit these lessons to memory. This is when learners get to test what they learned during the class.
  • Adding the salt (making adjustments). After following a recipe out in the real world, you may begin to make modifications, until the original recipe becomes a “you” recipe with new ingredients, steps, and flavor profile. Like learning a new recipe, after attending a training and leaving with new tools it’s necessary to make those tools work for you and everyone else you’re “serving.” This is the true goal of every learning event.

Learning how to develop an effective training is like preparing an enjoyable meal. The more you cook the meal and the more comfortable you become with the steps, the easier it will be to reach for ingredients without relying on the recipe. Learning takes time and effort – but the end results can be as rewarding as making your favorite meal. Bon Appetit! 

Danielle Eisenstock is a training and development manager at Urban Engineers. Contact her at dheisenstock@urbanengineers.com.

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.