The esteemed McKinsey consulting firm recently completed a study examining the ways in which companies of the future are incorporating artificial intelligence in their day-to-day operations. This may not seem relevant to social workers — AI has been on the rise for some time, and robot mental health is hardly a field of MSW study. But what is important, from a social work perspective, is that those same companies are increasingly seeking interpersonal capabilities and social skills in their (human) employees. To compensate for increased automation in certain facets of their operations, they are looking for emotionally intelligent individuals to fill other roles.
The emphasis on social emotional traits in corporate culture is reflected in university business programs as well. At the Wharton School of Business, getting into the MBA program now requires participation in a group interview where emotional intelligence (EQ) and social skills are assessed. At the Columbia School of Business, candidates are screened for social intelligence, integrity and community leadership. As the demand for these skills increases, social workers are well-poised to fill the void. With their training and backgrounds, social workers can teach companies a thing or two about purpose, ethics, humanity, social intelligence, and corporate self-awareness.
While companies are increasingly valuing behavioral intelligence in their employees, they also are placing a new emphasis on societal good, work-life balance, and social responsibility. This is beyond the province of most MBAs, but it is the exact wheelhouse of social work. A corporate focus on social and and emotional intelligence correlates with the foundational competencies in which social workers are trained. Because social workers understand the operating systems in people’s lives, they can bring those insights into Human Resources departments and corporate practices.
History has shown us that when corporations are too focused on profits, they often lose sight of their humanity — and of the individuals they serve. With many of today’s companies making frequent public missteps, the perspective of a social worker may be just what a board of directors needs. Bringing social workers on as employees can help keep companies mindful of individual rights, social justice and diversity. An example of this can be found at Google, where an MSW-trained social worker holds a position leading programs that empower women in tech.
Recognizing the need for professionals who understand human behavior, corporate America has started placing social workers in vital roles. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work jobs are expected to grow by 16 percent over the next four years. And some of this growth has been spurred by employment opportunities in non-traditional social work positions, such as jobs with corporate, for-profit employers.
What Social Workers Do
Social workers may pursue various roles in corporate settings. These include empowering and motivating employees, offering trainings to improve interpersonal dynamics and teamwork, and coaching management on conflict resolution and communication. Social workers may also be employed in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), assisting employees with personal problems such as substance abuse, marital conflicts, or mental health concerns.
In addition, social workers possess the skills to perform needs assessments. These may improve the operations of a company internally — identifying the necessity of stress management support, for example — or they can be applied externally, looking at consumer behavior. A business hoping to sell consumer goods or services to a diverse range of populations would certainly benefit from the insights of a social worker.
The bottom line? These days, hiring a social worker is simply good business. Social work in the workplace helps create a healthy business environment with a values-driven culture. It increases employee retention, motivation, efficiency, and more, and improves corporate communication, job satisfaction, and productivity. A worthy cause, if ever there was one.