Six out of 10 social workers would not recommend their workplace

Community Care and TMP study finds poor management is leading reason why social workers would not encourage others to join their workplace

Social worker with files
Illustration: James Gibbs

Most social workers would discourage others from taking a job with their current employer, an in-depth study for Community Care and advertising agency TMP has uncovered.

The study examined 2,100 social workers’ attitudes to job-seeking and found that 59% would not recommend their employer to other social workers. Just 13% said they would promote their place of work to others.

This equates to a score of -46 for employee engagement among social workers under the Net Promoter System, an industry standard method for tracking employee engagement that is used by companies such as Apple, AXA and Lego.

Reed Business Insight, the research company that conducted the study for Community Care and TMP, said the -46 score was one of the lowest they had ever recorded using the Net Promoter System.

TMP spokesman Robert Peasnell said; “It is critical for social work to deliver a better candidate experience to people applying for jobs. Despite the high cost of agency staff and shortage of experienced staff, too often the recruitment process is slow, uninspiring and bureaucratic.

Find out what’s going wrong in the recruitment process

“Candidate feedback is also key, so it’s essential that employers not only acknowledge applications, but that they communicate with candidates throughout the recruitment process”.

How social workers feel about their current employers1

Senior social workers were the least likely to recommend their organisation with a Net Promoter System score of -55% followed by standard social workers at -47%.

Dissatisfaction with employers increased steadily with age. Social workers aged 25 to 34 years old gave a Net Promoter System score of -37% while those aged 55 to 64 gave a score of -51%.

recommend with age2

Poor management and supervision was the primary reason for social workers not recommending their employer.

One senior practitioner from North East England said: “Staff do not feel that senior management are fighting their corner anymore.”

Why are one in 10 social workers on the brink of quitting?

Excellent support and good supervision were the leading reasons why social workers would endorse their employer.

“We are struggling for staff and carrying high caseloads like all authorities but ours does have a reasonably stable senior management team,” said a senior social worker in the South East. “If you’re going to go through the hell of doing frontline work, you might as well do it for this one.”

Maris Stratulis, England manager for the British Association of Social Workers’, said she is not surprised by the result: “Members continue to contact us about poor management and poor support including irregular supervision, limited CPD opportunities and an organisational culture of blame,” she said. “It is critical that employers engage in open dialogue with social workers on a regular basis. Employers need to walk the floor, talk face to face with social workers and dig deep about the key issues that social workers are citing as to why their current organisation is not a good place to work.”

She advised social work employers to be creative in the work place: “A change of culture is not about new funding streams, it is about enabling a leadership value base of respect for staff,” she said.

Unison’s national officer for social care Helga Pile points towards clear existing standards for employers, stressing that the first step for employers is to ensure they are implementing them.

She said: “There’s a growing gap between the way things are on the ground and the way leadership and management are behaving.

“When organisations are under pressure there are two responses- either people don’t want to hear the problems and put a lid on them or they have to be open and transparent about the problems and speak up about it to central government,” said Pile.

With 74% of respondents working for a local authority, the chair of the Local Government Association (LGA)’s resources board, Cllr Claire Kober notes the importance of councils: “facing up to the ongoing challenge recruiting and retaining social workers.

“Earlier this year we launched employee gold standards for social workers. Like any responsible employer, councils want the best for our staff and it is important that any changes make experienced social work staff feel supported in their role, not least because of the urgent need to retain staff who may leave because of work pressures and bureaucracy,” she said.

Agency vs permanency

Despite most social workers being unwilling to recommend their employer and 94% saying the daily pressure on social workers has never been higher, 75% of social workers felt positively about the profession.

Social workers also preferred the security of being a permanent employee than working as agency worker.

Just 12% said they preferred the idea of being a freelance social worker despite half saying being an agency worker was easier than working as a permanent member of staff.

Job security was the leading reason why the social workers wanted a permanent position.


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2 Responses to Six out of 10 social workers would not recommend their workplace

  1. David Hunter October 1, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    I found that one major cause for dis-satisfaction in the office where I worked in Birmingham was instances of managers bullying and being publicly rude to staff. This was raised in a team meeting during a discussion about Aggression Policy. A member of staff suggested that internal aggression was as important an issue as external. Unfortunately not much was done about this.

  2. Ian Kemp October 1, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    Social work has now become a operative job within the context of corporate management . I have retired now 18 years but still work as a locum In all I have worked for over 26 L/A in all forms of social work from children / families adults mental health from team manager to senior social worker social worker . A total of 42 years . I am afraid with the breakdown of social work departments . Social work has no real voice or professional ethos to stand up to increasing corporatism. It is about working for the local authority not the client . Its about control via all sorts of bureaucratic constraints . It is grossly over managed at great cost . The best thing would be to increase social work courses to 5 years take it out of Local authority control and fund it independently then you would get a proper professional approach rather then a managerial corporate response to social problems . With that approach with higher qualifications in specialised areas is really the only way for social work to survive as a profession . The costs would not in the long run be very great due to the fact there are so many managers paid mega bucks to push paper about many who have either never been near a client let alone social work for years . Corporatism rewards them well . But it s not social work . Disciplines and threats fly around every ware and psychopathic management rules.. No wonder that social accept in a few areas is in such a mess . I am afraid corporate local gov has been a disaster for social work as a profession with humanitarian values . values