EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Teijin Twaron, the Netherlands: Redeployment, training and development


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Target Groups: 
Skilled ManualUnskilled Manual
Initiative Types: 
developmentErgonomics/job designetcFlexible working practicesHealth and well-beingTraining


Organisational background


Since 2001, Teijin Twaron has been part of the Industrial Fibres business group of Teijin Limited, based in Osaka, Japan. Teijin Twaron manufactures a strong chemical fibre, also called Twaron. Before 2001, Twaron was part of AKZO Nobel Fibres. In 2003, Teijin Twaron employed 1,001 workers, 534 of whom are employed at the plant in Emmen in the Netherlands.

The age-aware personnel policies of the company apply to the Emmen plant, where work is mainly industrial and relatively demanding due to physical requirements and a five-shift work organisation. Some 89.4% of the workforce is male. The number of workers over 40 years of age is 626 (63%) for Teijin Twaron (a specification for the Emmen plant is unknown). The average age is 42.6 years and the workforce is ageing. While all age categories over 40 years have increased in size since 2002, all younger age categories have decreased. Personnel policies are aimed at enhancing Teijin Twaron’s attractiveness as an employer and at trustworthiness, transparent communication and reciprocal responsibilities of employees and the employer. Social dialogue is strongly developed as a result of an agreement made during the 2003 negotiations on the Collective Labour Agreement, to conduct a joint study on an ‘age-conscious staff policy’.

The original initiative

In 1993, a study group on policy aimed at older workers was established at Twaron, then part of AKZO Nobel. These issues were discussed and introduced during a period in which the first signs of an ageing workforce became visible at Twaron. It was found that the continued employability of workers required ongoing training and development and a leadership style that supported a proactive attitude. The study group made recommendations in relation to three issues:

  • communication and information, and the role of line management;
  • training and development of employees;
  • the career-management and development cycle.

In 2003, the 1993 policy was evaluated. The evaluation was based on regular employee satisfaction surveys and a series of workshops in which employees took part. Generally, a mixed view of policy implementation emerged. While most policies were implemented, there was a lack of emphasis on enhancing the employability of workers. The career-management and development cycle, communication and information, as well as training and development instruments, were indeed implemented; however, actual implementation did not lead to the prevention of experience concentration, or to continued development and adjustment of tasks and requirements, in order to promote mutually beneficial work relations, etc. As a follow-up to an agreement made during the 2003 negotiations on the Collective Labour Agreement, a committee comprised of trade unions, a HR manager, the chair of labour issues and a line manager agreed to conduct a joint study on an ‘age-conscious staff policy’, supporting further elaboration of the existing policy.

Good practice today

After the 2003 negotiations, Teijin Twaron and the trade unions conducted the study into an ‘age-conscious staff policy’ and agreed to make recommendations. The company, an employers’ organisation, trade unions and the works council took part in the study group. Both internal and external reasons for the study and the proposed policies were mentioned. Regarding the internal factors, more than 60% of the workforce is aged 40 years or older, while staff turnover is low. Over half of the employees conduct physically demanding and monotonous work at demanding hours in a five-shift roster. As a result, an increase in health complaints is expected, as well as the concentration of experience. External factors include government policies that make early exit and disability more expensive for the company, in addition to an associated increased pressure on workers and employers to increase the average age of exit; at the same time, employees seem to remain strongly in favour of a timely, i.e. early, exit.

The study group argued in favour of an integrated approach, as this is considered to offer the best possibilities for success. This type of approach addresses not only the content of policies (‘what’), but also the implementation structure (‘how’) and the associated desired behaviour (‘process’). The integrated approach includes recommendations on conditions of employment, work patterns and physical workload. In addition, the explicit formulation of expectations for the company, line management and individual employees is considered to support the implementation of the policy.

On the basis of an evaluation of the existing policy that was implemented by Twaron in 1993 (then under AKZO Nobel) – as well as an analysis of the efficacy, sustainability and feasibility of other policies and an inventory of successful policies at other, comparable companies – the study group made the following recommendations:

  • Professional people management: Leadership development on the basis of competency management and the development and implementation of practical training and HR tools.
  • Modernisation of employment conditions: The Collective Labour Agreement should allow the individualisation of employment conditions and exclude age discrimination. In agreement with national equal treatment in relation to age and labour regulation, age-related arrangements are to be replaced by arrangements based on ‘objective conditions’. It also recommends the introduction of a savings arrangement for relatively long-term interruptions of the working life based on the national life course policy.
  • Sustainable labour participation: Implementation of a pilot, mid-career orientation programme. Extension of the existing periodical health examination through a ‘workability index’.
  • Clever organisation of production activities: Optimisation of working time patterns by the adjustment of rosters in a number of pilot projects.

These factors all contribute to older workers’ prolonged employability. The integrated approach, including attention given to the ‘what’, the ‘how’ and the ‘process’ dimensions, coupled with the four main recommendations made, leads to a matrix of recommendations aimed at the individual employee, the organisational unit and the employer.

Teijin Twaron’s integrated age-aware personnel policy

Policy content


Implementation structure


Desired behaviour


Employer: Teijin Twaron Responsibility as employer Reduce barriers, no age discrimination Formulation of targets; appealing examples
Line management: department level Balanced capacities and requirements Functional demands that develop over time Reserve feasible functions; training of managers; long-term approach
Employee: individual level Responsibility for individual employability Training and development; flexible work Discuss motivation problems; support flexibility

Source: J.H.G. Sulmann, et al, 2004, Appendix 8

The integrated policy concept appreciates that an emphasis on the ‘what’ does not fully guarantee that policies, adequate in themselves, are indeed effectively implemented. The 2003 study group has learned from its evaluation of the 1993 policy that both the stimulation of employability efforts and the active development of line management quality are required for the successful implementation of policies. Future prospects will concentrate on implementation.

The policies have focused attention on the responsibility of the company and the older employee in relation to employability issues, and on improved intracompany communication with regard to the issue of ageing. Apart from these, there are no strong indications of policy success yet, due to the recent implementation of the policy.

Further information


J.A.M. Veldman, Personnel Affairs Manager

J.H.G. Sulmann, Works Council Chair


Teijin Twaron, Sociaal jaarverslag 2003 [Social annual report], Arnhem, Teijin Twaron, 2004.

Sulmann, J.H.G. et al, Leeftijdsbewust personeelsbeleid. Eindverslag van een studie door CAO-partijen [Age-aware personnel policy. Final report of a study conducted by Collective Labour Agreement negotiation parties], Emmen, 2004.


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