Are you a training or learning and development (L&D) leader with an overwhelming list of training requests? Sometimes, there are so many requests that no team is large enough to get them all done! Everyone is clamoring to get their hands on more training, and it’s all the L&D team can do to get even a fraction completed.

In general, L&D teams are faced with uncertainty on which programs, exactly, are needed to drive business results. I use the PACER Model — and it’s worked pretty well. Of course, PACER is not the only model out there, and it’s important to use a model that works for your organization. After all, every company, every team and every project has different requirements: There is no silver bullet when it comes to identifying training needs. PACER meets my needs for a flexible approach that’s fast, scalable, teachable and easy.

To get started using PACER, follow these tips:

Planning

Every good thing starts with a plan. It’s important to begin all prioritization efforts with the end in mind. Then, using a sheet to keep organized, pull the following data:

  • Audience: The target audience.
  • Key business results: Measurable outcomes for the business (not for training — that’s a few steps down).
  • Business baseline: Current performance metrics: Don’t panic if you don’t have these yet. You can still move forward with a plan to capture.
  • Culture: How the culture helps (or hurts) achieving the results.
  • KSAs: Knowledge, skills and abilities needed to achieve the results.
  • Training metrics: Specific metrics that the L&D team will use to measure training effectiveness.
  • Existing content: List any material that meets the KSAs or key result targets. This may be training, communications or even a napkin from dinner when you wrote down some notes; it’s all content.
  • Training gaps: Notes on any KSAs that do not have associated materials.

Analyzing

An analysis is part of every model I’ve seen for identifying and prioritizing training needs, and PACER is no different. To approach the holistic need for training, pull everything into another tab of your sheet. Use the following criteria score each initiative:

  • Rationalization: Is this a strategic project with loads of proprietary information? Or is it a “nice to have” that may be purchased off the shelf?
  • Formality: Does the average audience member have prior knowledge, or are they learning the information for the first time? Are they required to know it to perform their jobs well?
  • TIER-C: Based on the answers to the questions below, the project gets a TIER-C score:
  • Timeliness: How much time does the learner have to reflect on the information/ task before acting?
  • Impact: What happens to the person if they don’t know or perform the action correctly?
  • Effect: What happens to the company if they don’t know or perform the action correctly?
  • Regularity: How often do they need this information or perform the action?
  • Complexity: How hard is this to master the first time?

Constructing

Now that we know the relative scores for each of the projects on our list, it’s time to construct the plan. First, reorder the projects according to the scores gathered above, with the highest at the top.

  • Estimated outputs: Based on your initial knowledge, list the estimated number of outputs you’ll produce.
  • Estimate resource demand: Again, based on what you know, how many hours will it take to complete (hint: Pick your average development time and use the “peanut butter spread” approach. This isn’t meant to be exact, but directionally accurate).
  • Resource hours: I assume six hours per day to focus on projects for each resource working on the team. Two hours are held for meetings, emails, responding to messages, etc. (Be sure to remove any known vacations!)
  • Above or below the fold: Add a thick line where your resource hours max out. That shows you which projects are “above the fold” you can work on, versus what is “below the fold” and will be your backlog.

Executing

You’re done! Not quite … now that you have your plan and justification, you still need to align with everyone. Find your most prominent critics and supports and bring them together in a single meeting. Combing the most vocal stakeholders allows me to address the critics — while your supporters can hear the talking points for when they encounter resistance.

Reporting

Depending on the effort and your company’s culture, reporting can vary from a formal quarterly review to something more informal and fun. For example, my organization currently uses the “What’s New in Two” method, in which we share updates in less than two minutes every two weeks. It’s not how you report, as long as your stakeholders see your progress.

Remember: Assessing and prioritizing training needs is a work in progress. It’s hard, and you won’t always get it right. But keep going and improving! The PACER Model has been revamped and recreated at least five times in the last year to account for new needs. I expect we will continue to modify PACER as our business changes, our needs change and our industry changes. Stay agile, and trust the process.

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