Survey & tool

The Social Work Organisational Resilience Diagnostic (SWORD) survey and tool

Information obtained on the knowledge, skills and abilities associated with organisational resilience has been used to develop this diagnostic tool. Its purpose is to assess, through a staff survey, the extent to which social work organisations have in place those conditions that have been found to underpin the wellbeing of staff and promote optimum practice. The workbook is designed to be used alongside the tool, but can be used independently.

The survey questionnaire was co-produced and refined over time in workshops with social workers from a range of backgrounds to capture diversity and difference in experience. It defines each of the five Key Foundational Principles (KFPs) and asks social workers to indicate how strongly they agree or disagree with a series of statements related to each KFP. (Higher scores represent higher levels of agreement for all questions: i.e. strongly disagree = 1, and strongly agree = 6). A ‘traffic light’ system is used to assess the extent to which social workers agree or disagree that these conditions are present in their organisation:

Green  = strongly agree / agree (Score 5 or 6): good practice identified.

Amber = slightly agree / slightly disagree (Score 3 or 4): some action required.

Red = disagree / strongly disagree (Score 1 or 2): urgent action needed.

Sword Tool V1

Figure 1: The SWORD Tool in action

The survey findings will provide managers and leaders with a profile of their organisation’s performance for each of the five KFPs, and with the evidence they need to address issues identified in a targeted way.

As set out in Figure 1, we recommend leaders and managers use the tool and workbook to underpin a process of continual development to:

  • Provide an initial diagnosis of problem areas.
  • Identify and introduce interventions.
  • Evaluate these interventions by re-administering the tool to staff.

Most organisations are likely to have some variation in their profiles. For example: Organisation A may score highly on Secure Base and Sense of Appreciation, moderately on Learning Organisation, and fairly low on Wellbeing; Organisation B might have high scores for Learning Organisation and Mission and Vision, moderate scores for Wellbeing, and low scores for Secure Base and Mission and Vision.

Download an example of an organisational profile.

Strategies for fostering the conditions required to enhance organisational resilience are set out in the five KFP sections of this workbook. The chart below, Organisational resilience: Strategies for supporting the five Key Foundational Principles (KFPs), outlines all the key strategies that support the KFPs and associated quick wins, and will help you navigate the workbook. Many strategies support more than one KFP. The ‘golden threads’ are revisited in each section, reflecting their importance in developing resilience.

Download a full version of the KFP table.

KFPS Table

SWORD workbook: Key Foundational Principles (KFP) table

The SWORD survey and COVID-19 response survey

Access the survey. We would like to thank What Works for Children’s Social Care for their consultation on this survey. This survey also includes a set of questions to assess wellbeing in the context of working under lock down and social distancing conditions. This survey will be open in Spring and Autumn each year for periods of six weeks. The next opening is from the 13 April until 28 May 2021.

How to use the SWORD survey and COVID-19 response survey

Organisations must nominate a lead contact in a senior role (such as a Principal Social Worker, Head of Service) who will administer the SWORD survey across the workforce. Nominated contacts should get in touch with to ensure their organisation can access the survey.

The lead contact will disseminate and work with teams and individuals to ensure workforce participation in the survey.

Individuals will complete the survey online and your organisation’s data will be collated and analysed by Research in Practice.

Your nominated contact will receive their organisational data returns once the survey is closed and work with management in implementing the tasks and strategies from the workbook. The COVID-19 response data will be sent to organisations as a supplementary readout of data.

All survey questions are listed below:

SWORD questions

KFP 1: Secure Base

The organisation provides a sense of containment (protection, safety and being cared for), while also offering opportunities for workers to explore fears and threats and to raise constructive challenge to practice and organisational change. This ‘safe haven’ provides workers with support and gives them renewed energy and resources.

  • Managers are available when I need support.
  • Senior managers take responsibility for creating a safe working environment.
  • This organisation appreciates the demands of my job.
  • Work-related stress is recognised as a serious issue and action is taken when required.
  • I get the support and reflective supervision required to manage the emotional demands of my work.
  • I have a ‘safe haven’ at work where I can share my experiences and concerns.
  • There is an understanding of the impact of organisational change, and action is taken to manage this effectively.
  • I am given opportunities to work with others and find solutions to difficulties.
  • I have a sense of belonging and commitment to my team.
  • Managers are sensitive to the feelings of others and offer support.
  • Social work values are at the heart of the organisation.
  • I feel respected and supported by my colleagues.
  • Staff feel able to raise issues of bullying and harassment and raise concern if necessary.
  • I find my job meaningful.
  • The organisation is proactive in promoting anti-discriminatory practice.

KFP 2: Sense of Appreciation

Practitioners feel valued and that their individual talents and skills are appreciated. Managers are open and approachable, genuinely interested in workers and trust them to do a good job. Managers understand the pressures of the work and the need to support staff to engage in self-care and ensure a healthy work-life balance.

  • I am trusted to do a good job.
  • Good work is acknowledged and appreciated.
  • I feel that the contribution I make is valued.
  • Managers are open and approachable.
  • People are treated as individuals and their diverse contribution recognised.
  • Managers appreciate the challenges that I face in my work.
  • Managers recognise and value the tasks that each team performs.
  • Individual and team success is communicated and celebrated.
  • Managers are aware that staff have personal responsibilities, and support them in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Staff are respected for their knowledge and experience.
  • Staff are trusted to have control over how they plan and complete their work.

KFP 3: Learning Organisation

Within the organisation there is a system of shared beliefs, goals and objectives, and this is communicated clearly. Individuals, teams and the organisation itself are able to reflect and learn from experience and take an evidence-informed approach to improving practice and managing change. The input of individuals in accomplishing this is actively encouraged. Problems provide an opportunity for learning rather than blame or individual scapegoating.

  • Managers tackle difficult issues and work towards solutions.
  • When something goes wrong, lessons are learned rather than blame attributed.
  • I receive reflective supervision that helps me to learn and develop in my practice.
  • Learning and development is a priority in this organisation.
  • Managers encourage me to express my opinions, and these are considered wherever possible.
  • Managers encourage open and honest communication.
  • The reason for change is communicated clearly.
  • Change processes are informed by evidence and clearly focus on improvement.
  • There is an understanding of what ‘good practice’ looks like and how it can be achieved.
  • I am given time and space to reflect on my work.
  • Leaders are committed to continuous improvement.
  • Managers prioritise my need for supervision.
  • The supervision I receive helps me to improve my practice.
  • I can access the training I need to do my best work.

KFP 4: Mission and Vision

Managers are committed to developing a clear mission and vision for the organisation, and use their communication skills to motivate others in working towards achieving this. They are optimistic but realistic, focus on continuous improvement, and inspire staff to identify what ‘good’ looks like and how it can be achieved. Change is managed sensitively, and time for consolidation and stability is prioritised.

  • Managers set a good example, which inspires me to do my best.
  • Managers are committed to maintaining high standards and social work values.
  • Managers are well respected.
  • Managers are self-aware and inspire and motivate others.
  • Managers have the confidence and self-belief to succeed.
  • Managers talk optimistically about the future and what can realistically be achieved together.
  • Staff know what they need to do to meet goals and objectives.
  • Staff work together to achieve positive outcomes.
  • Managers articulate a clear identity, purpose and vision.
  • Change is managed sensitively, and a balance maintained between change and stability.
  • The organisation has a clear practice model which supports good social work practice.

KFP 5: Wellbeing

Staff believe that the organisation is committed to supporting their wellbeing and, wherever possible, to reducing stress and improving working conditions. Workers feel able to thrive, in a job that is rewarding and manageable, and to focus on making a difference to children, young people and families. For these reasons, staff are committed to the organisation and their role within it.

  • I am treated fairly at work.
  • On the whole, my workload is manageable.
  • My job is satisfying and rewarding.
  • My job helps me flourish and grow.
  • On the whole, I feel I make a difference to the lives of the children and families or adults I work with.
  • Appropriate support is available to me if I have a bad experience at work.
  • I can access expert counselling if I need it.
  • I am committed to this organisation.
  • The physical conditions at work allow me to do my job effectively.
  • I have opportunities to debrief before leaving work.
  • Overall, I have a good work-life balance.
  • If I am unwell, I can take time off to recover.
  • I would recommend my organisation as a good place to work.
  • I see a future for myself in this organisation.

All survey questions are listed below:

COVID-19 response questions

KFP 1: Secure Base

  • I get support from my team members on a regular basis and feel connected to them. 
  • My manager ‘checks in’ with me regularly to ensure I am coping well with current working conditions.
  • I have the support I need to practice remotely in a safe and ethical way.
  • When working remotely, communication with managers and colleagues is effective.
  • My organisation is committed to prevent or effectively manage any moral distress or secondary trauma I may experience.

KFP 2: Sense of appreciation

  • My manager and co-workers are aware of my personal circumstances and needs and accommodate them wherever possible.
  • My workload and job tasks have been adjusted to enable me to do my job to my best ability under current conditions.
  • My manager trusts me to do a good job when I am working remotely.

KFP 3: Learning organisation

  • My organisation helps me to develop the knowledge and skills needed when working remotely.
  • My organisation has ensured I have the appropriate equipment and space I need to work safely and effectively at home.
  • My organisation has ensured I have the appropriate equipment (i.e. PPE) to practice safely if and when I am in face to face contact with people.
  • (if relevant) I can access the information systems I need to do my job effectively when working remotely.
  • My organisation is actively enabling digital access for the children/ families/ adults we work with.

KFP 4: Clear mission and vision

  • Managers are visible and communicate with me regularly even if we can’t meet in person.
  • I am clear what co-workers and managers expect of me when I am working remotely.
  • My organisation has developed clear policies and practices for managing organisational change effectively during the pandemic. 

KFP 5: Wellbeing

  • My organisation is aware of the risks of working remotely and provides me with guidance to support my wellbeing.
  • I am happy with my work-life balance when working remotely.
  • Support is available to help me manage the effects of grief, loss and trauma I may experience in relation to the pandemic.