Retaining social workers in today’s world is a top priority in achieving improved general public health in any country. There are several strategies that countries can adopt to attract and retain highly talented social workers within the profession. These strategies revolve around the need to feel supported, safe, and part of a community. Research also shows that social workers need to feel appreciated and protected to stay longer in the organizations where they serve. All these factors together support the overall well-being of the social worker as an employee, thereby increasing retention rates.
In areas with a shortage, organizations should focus on providing a supportive work environment to retain workers. For example, managers in an organization can improve the working life of social workers, reduce caseloads, cut the red tape, and give them a sense of belonging in the organizations. Salary is usually not a major issue, as representatives of social worker unions note, saying that concerns revolve around working conditions in most cases. In addition, attention to simple details such as how easy it is for a social worker to claim travel expenses can reduce turnover and vacancy rates in an organization. Many local authorities have noted that issues such as car allowance for social workers or offering them good rates for mileage can also help them improve their working conditions and therefore improve retention rates.
In many studies, the compensation of social workers comes second among the best strategies for attracting and retaining social workers. It is important for organizations and local authorities employing social workers to ensure they offer them competitive compensation and adjust the salary depending on the working conditions of each case or project. Offering perks is another strategy and can make the job look attractive to potential new hires and re-engaging the current staff while simultaneously boosting the morale of the social worker. For example, the UK’s local authority supported social workers to work remotely where possible during the COVID19 pandemic to reduce transmission rates while maintaining the same compensation benefits, they would normally enjoy, such as paid parental leave. In the US, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) supported social workers to work on multiple fronts using teletherapy to protect them from the disease and improve their working conditions. The strategy was supported by an earlier policy by Medicaid to expand telehealth services and reimburse social workers who are members for the services they give to their clients at home using real-time communication technology.
Giving positive feedback after handling cases is another strategy organizations and local authorities can use to attract and retain social workers. All employees, not just social workers, appreciate both constructive and positive feedback to understand how to put in their best effort. Although there is no agreement on the proportion of positive feedback, the good idea is to set up a scale and establish an ideal ratio in a range between positive and negative ratings. It is also important to give feedback to social workers frequently to make them feel motivated and determined.