The Unique Skill Set of Social Work
Social Workers are traditionally thought of as working in social service agencies and non-profits helping children and families. While this may be true for some social workers, this does not encompass all the skills and knowledge of the field. In fact, social workers are uniquely trained to understand not only human behavior, but also the systems that impact them. This line of thought is what is fundamentally called understanding the person in the environment.
This understanding of the person in the environment provides social workers with an astute understanding of human behavior. This is especially true for master level social workers, which have been trained extensively in this area. Examples of how this knowledge and skill set can be used to benefit companies includes: providing counseling to employees to reduce stress thus increasing employee’s productivity, assisting clients and employees in connecting to resources within the community. Additionally, this knowledge and skill set can equip organizations in working competently across cultures and creating an inclusive work environment. Overall, understanding people can assist organizations in improving performance, improving the quality of life of employees, and improving organization’s understanding of consumers and communities.
The old view of social workers working only with disenfranchised populations is out of the door. In fact, many are calling the MSW the new MBA. Social workers are trained to look at the big picture and focus on root causes – the environment i.e. the systems. On the organizational level, social workers know how to manage and leverage assets in challenging environments. Consequently, assisting organizations in being more effective as well as efficient. More importantly, they understand how to bring together diverse and often opposing stakeholders to meet a common goal. For example, if a developer is coming to a town to build a big mall that displaces residents a social worker can facilitate dialogue between the residents, government agencies and the developer. Therefore, facilitating mutual agreed upon goals in economic development and community relations. Furthermore, as the world moves to increasingly interconnected global businesses social workers can move corporations towards socially responsible missions. Creating philanthropic agendas that positively impact the community and allows corporations to brand themselves as socially responsible.
Many organizations and companies fail due to working in silos and their inability to cultivate their best resource, their personnel. Social workers not only understand people to improve performance, but also to improve people’s quality of life. Additionally, social workers are extensively trained in seeing and understanding the big picture. Therefore, they are equipped with the skill set and knowledge to build partnerships and programs that get at the root of a problem.