In a grassroots organisation, staff are everything

By Mihajlo Starcevic, This Life Cambodia’s Board Chair.

For This Life Cambodia to deliver on our objectives, our staff have to feel fulfilled and supported in their jobs. We have just completed our first full staff engagement survey to find out whether we are succeeding in making that happen. Just as all of our work begins with the act of listening to communities, our organisational values begin with listening to our staff. The results are very encouraging…but first, we’d like to quickly reflect on why this matters so much.












A grassroots organization like This Life Cambodia, working hard every day within Cambodian communities, schools and prisons needs a highly skilled, passionate, and motivated team to make change happen. These jobs can be challenging, whether you are working with troubled youths in prison, advising women who face violence every night at home, or trying to improve daily education for hundreds of hopeful schoolchildren. These challenges are compounded by our unprecedented rate of growth; we have doubled in size in the last 18 months. This is exciting and rewarding, but can also be stressful.

A good working culture is an important safeguard against stress, as well as being a great motivator for top performance. A good working culture is one that offers reward and support, while listening to concerns and adjusting where necessary. That’s why this survey was so important to us: 62% of staff participated, providing these key insights.

Staff have told us that they are happy in their jobs and that they believe that TLC is making a positive difference: 94.3% of staff were clear that TLC is making a difference both in Cambodia, and in the world and 88.7 % of staff answered with a resounding yes when asked if they believed their role in TLC had a clear purpose. No wonder our staff achieve such great results working with schools, prisons and communities. They can be powerful ambassadors for TLC because their work reflects their personal values: 73% are able to articulate and understand TLC’s organisational values and all report that our values are consistent with their privately held values. And, offered a scale of 1 to 10, 76.4% of TLC staff told us they rated their happiness between 8 and 10.

97% of staff felt supported by their managers in achieving their goals, and 77.4% feel that TLC is a family friendly employer. The other 22.6% said they were not sure, which is expected, given nearly a third of staff have been recruited in the three months before the survey was undertaken. To address this concern, we are rolling out a formal induction process in which we will quickly understand our new starters’ family situations and let them know how TLC can support them.

The survey also identified some other areas for improvement. While most staff get regular feedback on how well they are performing, there was a small minority who did not, and we are working with senior managers to ensure everyone gets regular, constructive feedback from this point on. The survey also identified potential improvements around staff benefits and a need to focus on better and more creative ways to share information with them. We are working on these areas and will be hoping for improvement in our next survey.

We are now planning our biggest ever all-staff working group to consider and review our current operational realities and to help us plan for This Life Cambodia’s future direction. This will form the basis of our next three-year strategic plan. We will also repeat our staff engagement survey annually, checking that our staff are still highly motivated and committed to our mission. We have achieved so much to be proud of in the last ten years, as we work with ever more people. In the future we want to achieve even more, supported by a highly engaged and eager team who are integral to our journey and to our success.


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