Advice for Newly Qualified Social Workers: contributing to a team and service quality

The third in a three-part series of advice for newly-qualified social workers focuses on team-working

As an NQSW embarking on your first job, think about what you might need to know to help you work effectively in a team.

Trust, for example, is an important dimension of working collaboratively. It involves honesty and integrity, and forging relationships based on mutual respect. Not doing what you have agreed, or exploiting the difficulties of others to show yourself in a more positive light, are likely to break or undermine trust.

Teams often hold formal meetings to share information, plan, solve problems and learn. Team meetings can make a big contribution to how effectively a team carries out its tasks and how good its relationships are. You may find it useful to reflect on your role in the team and to consider your contribution in team meetings. How well do you communicate in these meetings? Do you listen well? How good are you at managing conflict? Do you take on a leadership role? Being part of a team can be rewarding, personally and professionally, as other team members can offer practical and personal support.

Sense of professional identity

Teams can also be made up of people from different professions. These are often described as interprofessional, multi-disciplinary or inter-agency teams. You’ll need a strong sense of professional identity to work in these environments. Both your immediate team and these wider teams can affect service quality.

You should also have an opportunity to be involved in improving service quality. As a social worker, this is a professional requirement.

You are well positioned not only to respond to the individual needs of people who use services, but also to contribute to improving the service more generally, introducing new services or changing services so that they are more responsive. It is also worth remembering that small changes can make a big difference.

Service quality

Your contribution to service quality will in part depend on your ability to solve problems. Taking a problem-solving approach to your work is key to contributing to service improvement, and to the development of your team and the wider organisation.

Use supervision to identify quality problems and unmet needs, and use team meetings to explore how you might respond. You may be able to contribute to developing a team business or service improvement plan, and involve people who use services and the multi-disciplinary team in the process.

● This short article is based on chapter 6, Joining and contributing to a team, by Anne Quinney, and chapter 7, Contributing to service quality and development, by Ivan Gray, Jonathan Parker and Marion Macdonald, in Newly Qualified Social Workers: A Handbook for Practice

● Quote voucher code LM19 and save £3 when you order a copy of the NQSW handbook online

More advice for NQSWs

This article is published in the 1 October 2009 edition of Community Care under the headline “Contributing to a team and service quality”

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