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SARRC Case Study

Southwest Autism scraps annual performance appraisals to engage their people, promote its core values, and reduce administrative burdens

With Larry Hillwig Chief HR and Administrative Officer at SARRC

Company info

Established in 1997, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to autism research, education, evidence-based treatment, and community outreach.

  • Industry


  • Headquarters

    Phoenix, United States

  • Company Size


Larry Hillwig

Chief HR & Adminstrative Officer

When the lead­er­ship team at South­west Autism Research & Resource Cen­ter (SAR­RC) announced they were scrap­ping their annu­al appraisal mod­el dur­ing a com­pa­ny all-staff meet­ing, it was met with a spon­ta­neous round of applause! Despite hav­ing an estab­lished core-val­ue focussed cul­ture, the year­ly approach inhib­it­ed rather than sup­port­ed per­for­mance and per­son­al devel­op­ment. It was clear that the nature of the pri­ma­ry job roles at SAR­RC required a reg­u­lar and agile approach to tru­ly engage tal­ent and improve performance. 

Anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge was SAR­RC employ­ees need­ing to pull togeth­er sev­er­al frag­ment­ed spread­sheet-based sys­tems. With objec­tives and per­son­al devel­op­ment con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen­ing annu­al­ly, tasked based check-ins hap­pen­ing week­ly or month­ly, and feed­back hap­pen­ing in an ad-hoc and spo­radic way, there was des­per­ate need to clar­i­fy what kind of con­ver­sa­tions should be hap­pen­ing when and to imple­ment a cohe­sive plat­form to bring it all together.

The cur­rent process­es also yield­ed a vast amount of unnec­es­sary HR admin­is­tra­tion and there was no way to pro­vide vis­i­bil­i­ty of per­for­mance man­age­ment and core val­ue met­rics to the lead­er­ship team. 

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Ini­tial­ly, Lar­ry and the SAR­RC lead­er­ship team were sim­ply look­ing to auto­mate their exist­ing appraisal process. After explor­ing the mar­ket, it became clear that real­ly it was a shift to a con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment approach that was need­ed. Lar­ry explains: 

As we con­tem­plat­ed cloud-based solu­tions for per­for­mance man­age­ment, it became appar­ent that a con­tin­u­ous approach would be invalu­able. As we reviewed sev­er­al ven­dors, Clear Review quick­ly rose as the best solu­tion – fit­ting well with our cul­ture of check-ins, an empha­sis on core-val­ues and the need for vary­ing objec­tive cri­te­ria. It was eas­i­ly imple­ment­ed and has been a huge suc­cess for our organization!” 

The chal­lenge of bring­ing mul­ti­ple require­ments togeth­er while main­tain­ing a sim­ple user expe­ri­ence was crit­i­cal. Clear Review’s abil­i­ty to com­bine per­for­mance objec­tives, check-ins, feed­back, organ­i­sa­tion­al goals and val­ues made the choice easy. This cohe­sion also meant the rel­e­vant reports and insights could be drawn out to help under­stand and improve these var­i­ous aspects. 

Being a not-for-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion, pric­ing was always going to be impor­tant to SAR­RC. Clear Review’s sim­ple and high­ly com­pet­i­tive com­mer­cial mod­el meant that not only did Lar­ry and the team feel it was the right solu­tion, but it was also at a price that worked for the allo­cat­ed budget. 

Although in its ear­ly stages, the sup­port and adop­tion for the change project has been huge­ly pos­i­tive and SAR­RC is now under­way with a true con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment cul­ture. 82% of the employ­ee base have received feed­back in the last month with an aston­ish­ing 98% engage­ment in quar­ter­ly check-in con­ver­sa­tions. The lead­er­ship team have been involved all the way through the launch which has been invalu­able and Clear Review’s imple­men­ta­tion resources helped with the roll out by pro­vid­ing clar­i­ty around what the ben­e­fits and expec­ta­tions were for both man­agers and employees. 

The response to the sim­plic­i­ty and intu­itive nature of Clear Review has been over­whelm­ing­ly pos­i­tive and the nature of the sys­tem has helped sup­port the vision of the ini­tia­tive which is that reg­u­lar per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions are para­mount to employ­ee engagement.

And final­ly, for the HR team, gone are the days of dis­con­nect­ed sys­tems and man­u­al process­es. All the rel­e­vant data being up to date and eas­i­ly acces­si­ble has helped the HR team obtain vis­i­bil­i­ty of where per­for­mance and devel­op­ment con­ver­sa­tions are, and aren’t, hap­pen­ing. This, in turn, has freed them to get out from behind the spread­sheets and engag­ing more mean­ing­ful­ly in devel­op­ing their talent. 

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