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Results from our Latest Culture Surveys (April 2023 – January 2024)

By Tom Billington, Fish Welfare Initiative Co-founder


In April 2023, July 2023, and January 2024, FWI conducted culture surveys to better understand a) how our team finds working with us, and b) how we can improve. This post presents findings from all three surveys. We know posting the results of our internal culture survey on our blog is somewhat unorthodox, but we do it in keeping with our organizational value of honesty and transparency.

General satisfaction levels among team members stands at 8.2/10 as of January 2024. All three surveys highlighted camaraderie among colleagues and making a meaningful impact as consistently the best aspects of work at FWI. Enjoyment of the work itself was also highlighted.

The main dislike of the team was intense/hard work, although this was highlighted less in the most recent January 2024 survey. Other issues, such as rushing decisions / projects and poor team-wide communication / collaboration appear to tie especially to our many strategic shifts over the last year and our increased uncertainty in our current impact model.

We have made the following changes, which we believe will reduce these issues:

  1. All big decisions have a period of review with the team

  2. Leadership are focusing more on employee relations and culture

You can find the anonymized raw data for all three surveys here.

FWI staff teach farmers to use a pH pen.

General Satisfaction

Inspired by the Centre for Effective Altruism, our January 2024 survey asked:

  • What is your overall satisfaction with working at FWI?

  • To what extent has working at FWI met your expectations?

You can see our team's responses below:

Respondents were given a 10 point scale, where 10 represented very satisfied/met expectations and 1 represented very unsatisfied/unmet expectations. The average between the two questions was 8.2. We take this as indication that the team is overall satisfied with working at FWI, although there are places to improve.

Best and Worst Aspects of Working at FWI

First, a note on the format of the surveys. In April and July, both the “Like Best” and “Like Least” questions were formatted as an open text box. In January 2024, this was changed to a checklist where other options could be given. This change was made in order to save the team time and to test out ways to boost the number of responses given. However, this does mean that the January survey is less directly comparable to the prior surveys, and as such our analysis below focuses predominantly on the larger trends found between the three surveys.

What Our Team Likes Most about Working at FWI

Combined results from April 2023, July 2023, and January 2024 culture surveys. Featuring any response that received over 4 mentions between all surveys. ​​ There were 58 total respondents (April 2023 (n=19), July 2023 (n=21), and January 2024 (n=18)).
  • Colleagues are consistently the most cited positive of work at FWI: It was in all three surveys, and has been in all prior surveys (here, here). Similarly, impact / focus on making a difference has been the second most cited positive without exception.

  • The work itself and flexibility were the third most cited positives of work at FWI. The work itself was particularly highly chosen in January 2024, although this was likely influenced by the format shift in the survey.

What Our Team Likes Least about Working at FWI

Combined results from April 2023, July 2023, and January 2024 culture surveys. Featuring any response that received over 4 mentions between all surveys. ​​ There were 58 total respondents (April 2023 (n=19), July 2023 (n=21), and January 2024 (n=18)).

  • Long and intense work hours have consistently been the most cited issue since we began surveying. In the January 2024 survey, however, only one person selected this (the first time it has not been the top issue). It is too early to tell if this trend will continue, but we think it could be due to changes in management and better setting of plans and work expectations.

  • Rushing decisions and projects, as well as poor team-wide communication and collaboration were the next most cited issues. Both were particularly highly chosen in January 2024, although this was likely influenced by a format shift in the survey.

  • Uncertainty of impact was concerningly high (the joint fourth highest-cited issue). This makes sense given the limitations with our current model, though we also feel that this is a symptom of poor communication from the leadership team as to the benefits of that model (which we still believe to be one of the best ways to positively influence fish lives currently available in low and middle income contexts).

Changes We've Made

The following are some changes we've made in response to these surveys:

  1. All big decisions now have a period of review with the team. Poor communication and insufficient team involvement in major decisions is something that came up in the January 2024 survey as well as in conversations with team members. We previously made a commitment to not make large decisions without the team reviewing them, but feel that we could have done better at applying this. As such, we are reaffirming our commitment to ensuring the relevant team members have a chance to give their opinion before any large decision is made.

  2. Leadership are focusing more on employee relations and culture. Since the beginning of 2024, Tom (Co-founder), Karthik (Managing Director of India), and Abhishek (Associate Director of India) have been leading efforts on improving FWI culture. For example, we are revamping FWI’s values and we have created meetings for manager training and knowledge sharing. Although not a direct solution to the issues presented above, we hope that greater scrutiny on how our team interacts with each other will foster an overall better environment for communication and stability. As a leadership team, we are putting more effort into accurate communication moving forward. We have also begun working with an organizational consultant to make some improvements here, although that project is ongoing.

Historically, FWI has been a place with many strategic pivots, where plans were frequently changed across the organization and within departments. We believe these pivots are in part to be expected for projects like ours that work in novel contexts. However, as pivots do sometimes have a detrimental effect on the team, we are working to somewhat increase our staff’s feelings of stability. We have already done this by:

  • Formalizing our R&D department with a more experienced lead and longer-term research plans

  • Accepting a strategic focus on R&D, instead of pushing for timelines of scale that are not viable for our current knowledge base

  • Training managers to give their teams more consistency

Given these, we now believe that FWI’s strategic and operational direction is more stably set. However, it is also true that FWI’s nimbleness and the novel work we do will mean that change is inevitable, and so we will also consider how to create a team culture where change is able to be better embraced.

Other Survey Findings

Below are some other insights from the three surveys:

If you were to leave FWI in the next year, what do you think would be the most likely cause of that?

Selected results from the July 2023 and January 2024 culture surveys (n=21 and n=18, respectively)

On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your pay?

Selected results from the July 2023 culture survey (the most recent time we asked about pay satisfaction). Note that 5 was labeled "Very satisfied". n=21

As part of our commitment to transparency, we intend to continue publishing our culture survey results annually. The surveys themselves are currently conducted at least biannually.

As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out or comment below.

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