Why private companies are taking on social workers
By J. Juan Macias
The demand for social workers has never been greater. In fact, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics projects a 19% faster-than-average growth in social work jobs until 2022.
But the need for social workers in business and non-profit administrative settings is just being recognised. Companies around the world are starting to realise the value of social workers and the transferable skills they can bring to the workplace.
Increasingly, organisations are looking for professionals who can help address a range of issues; from the safety, health and wellbeing of employees to improving a company’s financial, social and environmental performance.
Social workers with master’s degrees have a significant amount of clinical experience, and when coupled with stringent licensing requirements, they have never been better positioned to thrive and contribute in a non-traditional, private sector setting.
Social workers are good at understanding human behaviour, motivation and interpersonal relationships, as well as workforce challenges. Corporate social workers take on many roles, from helping employees manage the demands of work, life and mental health issues to helping companies build positive relationships with their communities. That might mean helping employees deal with substance abuse, domestic violence, divorce or military deployments. It could also include coaching work teams on how to be more productive, resolve conflicts and manage change. Or, it might involve liaising with government agencies or conducting community needs assessments.
Recognising this need for business and administratively focused social workers, the University of Southern California school of social work has created a non-traditional social work programme. This is aimed at master’s level students interested in applying their social work skills and training in organisations that do not typically hire social work graduates. Students can select one of two concentrations: social work and business in a global society or community organisation, planning and administration, both of which lend themselves to “non-traditional” settings.
The social work and business focus encourages students to think globally and to reflect on the impact of influential corporations. Its curriculum emphasises bringing a humane approach and social work values into the workplace, helping students learn strategies for creating positive business environments, healthy employees and strong communities. These students also choose whether to focus on the micro level (individual and family) of intervention, or the mezzo and macro levels (organisational change and programme development.)
Similarly, community organisation teaches students to apply their emerging leadership skills in planning, management and administration in both non-profit and private industry settings. Given global challenges like natural and manmade disasters, health epidemics and the difficulties of sustainable development, students are also taught how to be innovative and interdisciplinary.
The university’s “non-traditional” master of social work internships provide an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned to real-life situations under the supervision of a professional. Students are able to work alongside company managers to assess their departments, operationalise performance indicators, help set related goals and objectives and assist them in implementing change and performance management strategies.
For instance, interns at a multinational corporation helped make recommendations to improve its assessment form for high net-worth trust management clients. They were also tasked with conducting a national needs assessment to help improve services, as well as creating a presentation to help bankers better understand older adults.
At another company, interns designed and implemented training for supervisors and employees to improve communication and productivity.
Those who succeed in business social work must demonstrate skills ranging from leadership and management to decision-making. The more proactive students are within their allotted organisation, the more prepared they will be to work alongside management teams in corporate environments.
The programme is seeing great results, having already successfully placed social workers in positions at banks, the world’s largest film and television studio and the second largest multinational professional services firm in the US. Job titles range from director of employee relations to senior business partner in government and community partnerships.
When asked why they chose social work as their profession, most social work students say it’s about giving back and making a difference. So why does social work in the private sector make sense?
Because their goals and missions often overlap. US and multinational businesses are increasingly realising the importance of a holistic focus on people, planet and profit. They are beginning to understand the significance of contributing to the community that supports them, and how this can affect their long-term growth and success. In fact, most corporate social responsibility efforts are in areas traditionally supported by social work, including community development, public safety, education, public health and diversity.
Social workers can be the catalyst for companies’ efforts to give back in their communities and workforces. As more companies and non-profits hire social workers, it’s beneficial for all involved.
Article original posted on The Guardian Social Care Network.