What do INGO staff think should be changed about their organisations?


At Agenda Consulting, we run staff engagement surveys for International Organisations as well as other Third Sector groups. Usually these surveys include open text questions, which offer an invaluable resource for the deeper understanding of staff opinions.

Here I have taken the words of hundreds of INGO staff answering the question ‘What one thing would you change about working for this organisation?’.[1] All in all, the word cloud below draws on 59,242 words from 6 INGOs surveyed in 2016.[2] Together these organisations employ over 4,000 staff internationally.[3]

The cloud is a picture of the words staff used to describe the changes they wanted to see, not a rigorous form of analysis. Yet some of the words point to a wider pattern.

From our sector-wide research, we know that INGO staff perceptions of wellbeing and communications strongly influence their engagement with their organisation.[4] ‘Communication’ does show on this word cloud, along with terms like ‘organisation’, ‘process’ and ‘system’, which may be related. ‘Field’, ‘country’ and ‘office’ all make an appearance, hinting at the difficulties that can arise in communicating between head office and the field.

The huge green ‘work’, far bigger than any of the other words because it was used 486 times, along with ‘working’ (176 times) and ‘time’ (142 times), surely point to aspects of wellbeing and time management.

We also know that although the influence of management on reported staff engagement is less strong, it is more important in INGOs than in the UK Third Sector. It is interesting that ‘management’ was used so often in this sample, 169 times in total.

Whilst it’s only a picture, this word cloud summarises surprisingly well the factors we know from research and from our own experiences to be most important when it comes to INGO staff perceptions of their organisations.

Rose Hadshar, Research Consultant


[1] I also included answers to the questions ‘If there was one thing that could be done to make this organisation a better place to work what would it be?’ and ‘What one thing can this organisation do to be an even better place to work?’.

[2] For ease of reading, I removed words with a frequency of less than 10 from the word clouds.

[3] I removed all organisation names from the responses, and any identifying keywords contained in organisation names, to protect confidentiality.

[4] Roger Parry, ‘Employee Engagement in International NGOs for Employees in Middle- and Low-Income Countries’, February 2016. Regression analysis on factors which explain variation in response to the question ‘I would recommend this organisation as a good place to work’.

Share this

More Insights

Our partners

Association of Mental Health Providers AVM AVSM Charities HR Network Charity Comms Heritage Volunteering Group Hospice UK Humentum National Care Forum National Union of Students NCVO Voluntary Organisations Disability Group

Get in touch

+44 (0)1865 263720

Follow @AgendaConsult
Find us on LinkedIn

2nd Floor
11-12 Cornmarket Street

Company No: 4509427