Methods: A total of two independent studies were conducted. In the first study, 646 participants were involved to identify social work core competencies and develop the corresponding inventory. Firstly, the “Hierarchy Competency Model of Social Work” was adopted to identify the category of social work competency and further established an items pool. Secondly, core competencies and initial items were identified after the cognitive interviews with 10 social work students (mean age = 22.50, SD = 1.08) and 10 social workers (mean age = 28.90, SD = 3.67). Thirdly, the factor structure was formulated and validated using 315 social work students (mean age = 21.40, SD = 1.66) and 311 social work students (mean age = 21.89, SD = 1.65) through exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. Fourthly, the factor invariance of the inventory between genders, junior and senior students were examined using multigroup confirmatory factor analysis. In the second study, the reliability and validity of the inventory were evaluated among 300 well-trained social workers (mean age = 31.77, SD = 8.32) firstly. Then, the “Integrative Model of Human Growth at Work” was adopted to examine the pathways to thriving at work by exploring the role of balanced reciprocity of workplace in affecting organizational identification and core competency. Regression analysis was performed to evaluate the incremental validity of core competency to thriving at work. The structural equation model was used to conduct the mediation analysis.
Results: The qualitative and quantitative analysis revealed an eight-factor (i.e., knowledge and theory, communication and cooperation, value and ethics, planning and assessment, case work skills, group work skills, community work skills, and research and development) 24-item social work core competency inventory with good internal consistency coefficient, clear factor structure, high factor loadings, and factor invariance. Core competency significantly contribute to thriving at work. The organizational identification and core competency mediated the relationship between the balanced reciprocity of workplace and thriving at work.
Conclusions and Implications: The core competencies of social work can be effectively measured by the newly developed Social Work Core Competency Inventory, and also significantly contribute to thriving at work. In the future studies and practice, interventions and trainings can be carried out to enhance social workers’ core competency, and further improve their thriving at work, work performance, well-being, and health state.