Why are we designing this feature?

The develop your career in child and family social work site aims to provide a single place for social workers to use to make informed decisions about career steps and progression.

As part of this, we previously developed the explore roles feature which was rolled out in September 2023.

This feature aims to provide users with an understanding of different roles within child and family social work. These roles are segmented according to career stages, offering users a clear visualisation of upward progression. But this is not enough to meet our users' key needs.

Social workers also need to:

  • be aware of all career options within child and family social work, so that they can pick an aim to work towards

  • feel confident that the role they are moving into is right for them to fully prepare for the change and avoid disappointment

Our user research has found that the role descriptions we are using largely align with user's experiences at different local authorities and meet the needs of those considering a move into management.

However, we currently lack information about the different areas of practice these roles sit within.

This is a problem because the biggest difference between roles are day-to-day responsibilities which depend on the area of practice it is in. Understanding this is key to social workers being able to make the right career choice for them.

Meeting the user need

Some typical comments we’ve heard from users are:

“I think my work as a social worker and that of a senior social worker within my team are more similar than if I compare myself to another social worker on another team.”

“This might help with retention... being in safeguarding you can feel quite stressed trying to get through the week. When you feel like you want to leave you feel trapped to get out because you maybe aren’t aware of the different roles within local authorities. With this you might be able to decide more effectively. This could help a stressed social worker find a way out of their team.”

The areas of practice (password: swletmein) feature aims to help current and prospective child and family social workers actively manage their careers by:

  • providing them with a clear understanding of different areas of practice in child and family social work

  • highlighting the possibility of moving from one area of practice into another as a means of sideways career development

  • highlighting transferable skills and experience that can be used across different areas

We will also be looking into providing social workers with:

  • clear steps on how to apply for new roles

  • help to understand how to prepare for a new role and boost their confidence

Our approach to designing the navigation

Our approach to developing the areas of practice feature started with a design sprint workshop. This was a collaborative effort to conceptualise its presentation and to develop initial ideas for the user journey.

The design sprint was informed by:

  • research insights into users’ mental models around the topic

  • initial feedback on how the areas of practice content may fit together with the existing roles content

  • a pre-emptive risk assessment to help formulate our ‘how might we’ questions

Key design challenges

Users do not treat all areas of practice as equal and have previously suggested possible ways of categorising them. However, we do not have a good enough understanding of this and need our thinking to be aligned with policy intent. For this reason, we are currently holding off on adding structure to our list of areas of practice.

When thinking about the relationship between teams and roles we have encountered two key mental models:

  1. Roles are defined by high-level responsibilities and transferable skills and differences between teams are just nuances.

  2. Roles on different teams are so different that they define the role itself.

We concluded that roles and teams should sit together to help the user navigate intuitively. This will also provide the transparency of upwards and sideways movement sitting in the same place. We also opted for a similar layout to roles and responsibilities for consistency.

Next steps

Following our design sprint, and having working examples within the prototype, our next step is to test this new feature with users.