Social Care Workers Need New Skills To Survive And Thrive

  • Employers increasingly seeking hybrid of harder skills alongside traditional soft skills like empathy
  • Management skills increasingly as important as qualifications and experience
  • Almost three-quarters of social care job ads seek effective team workers and dedication also features prominently on organisations’ wishlists 

A hybrid of non-vocational skills are now just as important as qualifications, experience and job-specific attributes, according to social care recruitment agency Randstad Care.

How employees interact with one another and their clients and factors such as an individuals’ time management abilities, leadership attributes and capacity to influence and adapt to change are increasingly determining factors as to which job applicants are in demand.

This mix of attributes is particularly important to social care employers, with many job advertisements explicitly seeking workers who display such traits. Indeed, a search of all the social care vacancies on Randstad’s website revealed that the prominence of such keywords is often higher in care roles than across all UK openings as a whole.

Team work is an especially desirable attribute for social care employers, with 70% of advertisements including it, against a UK average of 51%. Dedication, passion and communication all featured prominently too, and all outstripped the prominence witnessed in advertisements across all sectors. Life skills were also seen as an important component for the ideal social care worker, referenced in almost a quarter of all job specifications; more than four times the job market norm. But while these so-called softer skills are perhaps expected of social care workers, it is the rise in prominence of harder skills to complement these attributes that has been the main paradigm shift.

Victoria Short, MD of Randstad Care, said: “Social care workers need a range of attributes to be good at their jobs and traditional soft skills are arguably more important in the healthcare sector than in any other. Empathy, benevolence and communication skills are vitally important to understand and cater to the patient’s needs and to convey this information to colleagues and family members. Working well under pressure, effective decision making and flexibility are also highly desirable attributes.  But, in addition to this compassion, hybrid skill sets including good time management are becoming increasingly important. As social care workers move up the career ladder, they will also need to incorporate skills they wouldn’t have necessarily expected to use in their chosen profession such as financial management to keep on top of budgets and adapting to change to stay in line with new regulations, requirements and internal policies and procedures.” 


While certain soft skills are sought by all employers, others are more unique to certain professions. Disability charity MacIntyre has previously conducted research using psychometric testing to create the profile of a ‘natural’ care worker and found that while expected traits such as empathy featured prominently, less obvious qualities such as introversion also registered frequently.

A low-profile approach, effective decision-making and a preference for working in a structured environment with clear rules and guidelines were other common findings from the tests and showed that successful social care workers go about their business slightly differently to individuals following other career paths.

Victoria Short added: “Being bold and brash might help you prosper in certain professions such as estate agency, but it’s less likely to be of use in a social care career where exuding calmness and being aware of your influence on others is the order of the day. This isn’t to be confused with being shy or withdrawn, but more that being a good listener and communicator comes about from being reflective and respectful. In a similar vein, persistence can be useful behaviour in ensuring that results are being achieved, but is likely to have a negative impact if it transfers into pushiness”.


Although some social care workers will already display the necessary soft skills required for their positions before they begin, most attributes can be picked up and developed on the job as individuals adapt to the needs and requirements of the role. And as well as helping further one’s career and future employability within the social care arena, fine-tuning your soft skillset can also be of use if you plan on embarking on a completely different career at some point in the future.

Victoria Short added: “Specific social care qualifications and on-the-job experience may not be of that much interest to organisations in different sectors if you are planning on a horizontal career move, but you can rest assured that soft skills developed in the role will be of utmost importance. Strong communication skills, patience and empathy are desirable attributes for a number of other professions, not least other areas of healthcare, education and even roles such as probation officers.”

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