For Kristen Hanke, being a trailblazer for SAGE’s instructional design is an honor. “It’s super exciting to be the first person in this role,” she says, “there’s just so much opportunity to do what I love.”
Since January 2018, Kristen has developed The SAGE Way, our comprehensive training guide to all things SAGE. We asked her what it’s like to lead the way in instruction at SAGE.
What is instructional design? What kind of training does an instructional designer need?
Instructional design looks at people’s behaviors and how they prefer to learn and designs tools to help them get from point A to point B. It uses training models to help close learning gaps. One of the models I use most is backwards design, which is where you start with your end goal in mind. This was my go-to when I was an elementary and middle school teacher, and it still works really well with what I do now. That being said, I rely on several models to design effective content.
There are many degrees and training certifications within the industry. I have a master’s degree in education, a training manager certification, and an e-learning certification.
What qualities make a good instructional designer?
You have to be curious and a problem solver. This is helpful to understand why things are the way they are. Being creative is also essential. You need to find different ways to create products that appeal to different types of learners. It’s important to want to understand people, their behavior, and diverse backgrounds.
Talk about the recent instructional design changes at SAGE.
Before I came to SAGE, there were daily “Take 5” training modules on food safety, and formal professional development, like The Institute, New Manager Training, Sophomore Seminar, and Junior Year Adventure.
To help with retention, we made changes to these programs with a focus on increasing engagement. We introduced interactive games, tools, and job aids. Because adult learners prefer to have more control over their learning material, our newer courses allow learners to choose a path through the content instead of dictating that path.
How has some of your previous experience prepared you for your role as SAGE’s instructional designer?
In the late '90s, I was in the Peace Corps in West Africa. This taught me to be tenacious, creative, open, and curious. It also taught me to be analytical - to try to understand the root of a problem to come up with an appropriate solution. The greatest lesson that still resonates with me today is that it’s important to understand the current situation and its influencers. It’s like getting your sea legs when you first step on a boat. You’re not very effective when you’re stumbling around. At SAGE, to be an effective trainer, I know I have to understand my audience first, because our backgrounds are so diverse.
What’s the most exciting aspect of your job?
The possibilities! SAGE is like a tree in the springtime, and I get to pop open all the blossoms. People love to improve themselves, and I get to help them do that.
Plus, things never get boring. There are so many different aspects to this company - so many opportunities to do a deeper dive into the content we want to develop - and that really keeps it exciting.
And I love being there for people. Instructional designers are always your ally. Whether you’re a senior leader or you’re on the front lines, we’re there to help.
This year, SAGE began rolling out our values — integrity, partnership, extreme ownership, respect, education, and innovation. Why are they important and how do you teach them?
Our values set the tone for all of us — from who we’re hiring, to team dynamics, the type of service we give our guests, and how we recognize and appreciate performance. They unify us, ground us, and support our mission.
They’re hard to teach to adults. These are so deeply ingrained that they’re only teachable if someone really wants to learn them. You can certainly hire for them, and you can model the behaviors and share the rewards they reap.
What do you like about SAGE’s company culture?
I love the collaborative nature. SAGE is truly a team sport. I don’t do anything by myself. I rely on content experts everyday in the Home Office and in the field to help accomplish goals.
I’ve worked in both public and private sectors, and SAGE is a breath of fresh air. SAGE does things differently in school food service; the skill set is elevated. We really thrive in the culinary arts. Our leaders are incredibly passionate about this company, and that comes through.
What’s the future of instructional design?
There’s so much coming online with artificial intelligence, big data, and advances in programming that options can be overwhelming.
For SAGE, the future of training is short, targeted modules or courses for specific skills via online learning or e-learning. But even with latest in technology, some learning should still be personal. Nothing beats getting feedback, guidance, instruction, or inspiration from an expert who’s been in the trenches.
What else is on the horizon for SAGE?
Lots of great things! We’re working on new content for our District Managers and retail venues. The Institute 2020 is going to be awesome. (I’m from Massachusetts. It’s an underrated word.) Managers will leave inspired by the content and with some new tools that support them in their roles. We’ll shine the spotlight on some of our talented Team Members that are knocking the ball out of the park. And that’s really exciting - when a company can turn to its employees and say “You do this better than anyone in the industry. Share it.”