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Cotton industry seeking to support farmers to find solutions to workplace issues

Published:10 November 2022

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation is funding the SHIFT Solutions Group research project.

A new initiative called the SHIFT Solutions Group program is searching for cotton growers to participate in a Cotton Research and Development Corporation funded project designed to tackle industry workplace issues.

SHIFT stands for the 5-pillars underpinning the workforce development initiative: Social sustainability, Human sustainability, Innovative workplaces, Future focus, and Transformational leadership. Farmers are being asked to nominate to work with the SHIFT team to co-design solutions to a problem or challenge associated with their workforce.

SHIFT Solutions Group project lead and CQUniversity researcher Dr Nicole McDonald said the program has been designed to use a decade of CRDC research into workforce, test ideas that could be new to industry for practical relevance and draw knowledge out of the people who understand industry workplace issues the best – the farmers themselves.

“We know attraction, engagement, performance, and retention issues are workforce problems that some farmers have been grappling with for a long time and these have been exacerbated by current circumstances including the pandemic, droughts, and floods. Some growers may feel stuck for practical ways to address their workforce issues and others may have great ideas for the best way to solve them and want support to put these into action. Their good practice could transfer to other cotton farming enterprises,” she said.

Dr McDonald says the project has been designed with the fact most farmers are time poor in mind.

“We are asking for a minimum time commitment of a one hour zoom session in December and January, and then to meet with us again for an hour in either March, April or May.

“We will be designing different programs and assigning groups around each farmer’s priority needs, working with them to unpack their challenges, and pulling together information that will be of assistance for them. We know one size doesn’t fit all and we want to make sure growers who participate get the maximum outcome for themselves, their team, and their enterprise.”

The project will be utilising the skills of leadership expert and learning designer, Jo Eady from Rural Scope, who will be developing tools and resources tailored to supporting farmers with workforce issues.

Chantal Corish, a psychologist, cotton grower, and PhD candidate investigating psychological safety, is also on the team to work with farmers on how to unlock great team learning and performance.

“The farmers who participate will have access to these leading experts to help them find solutions to the workplace issues they face.

The SHIFT Solutions Group program will culminate in an Unconference in June where the learnings from the project will be shared in a farmer-only online event. “We want this to be by growers, for growers."

Dr McDonald said they were looking for people who own, or are employed by, a cotton growing enterprise (farm) and are responsible for managing or supervising staff to participate.

“Everyone who applies and meets that criteria will be offered a place in the program because we want as many people as possible to take part.

“We understand things change and farmers are busy so there’s no obligation to accept the offer if you do submit an EOI and then reconsider.  

"It takes five minutes to submit the EOI, and the greater understanding we have of where people are at with their workforce challenge, the greater our chance to design relevant, useful, and effective tools, resources, and supports for the wider cotton industry.”

Express interest in participating here: https://bit.ly/SHIFTEOI