Two cases of workplace innovation in the Netherlands

Two cases of workplace innovation in the Netherlands

2022 – Commissioned by the Korean Labour Institute researchers of TNO carried out an investigation into two organisations that have implemented workplace innovation in The Netherlands: a nonprofit home care organisation, Buurtzorg NL, and a private advanced manufacturing company, CTS.

Buurtzorg NL and CTS: structural and cultural innovations

The two cases are different in their motivation and the goals they want to achieve. For Buurtzorg NL the service delivered to clients is a central goal, and the way to do that is to provide the employees the professional autonomy and facilities to deliver this service. As a consequence the job quality is very high as well. For CTS, the customers are central too. CTS employees want to develop the best technological solutions for them, but they also want to excel and apply the new knowledge elsewhere. They also want to perform a sustainable business, while at the same time their goal is to grow and be economically profitable.

Both organisations have in common that their workplace innovation measures are firmly grounded in change of a structural nature. These organisations have changed the organisational structure, the division of labour and management responsibility, in favour of more professional autonomy and a larger voice for the employees at shopfloor level. This structural change was aligned by cultural adaptation, such as the style of leadership, inter-human communication and cooperation (in a team-based context), and behaviour that fits with ‘mature’ employment relationships.

Adoption of technology

Consequently these structural and cultural adaptations enabled an easier adoption of new technology and changes, because the employees have become highly involved in redesigning the organisation and contributing to innovation. They were involved in the development and implementation of new technology.

No national policy, but private initiatives

Apart from the case studies, a sketch of workplace innovation in The Netherlands is provided. While there is no clear and substantive policy regarding workplace innovation, several companies have undertaken activities and implemented practices that align with the workplace innovation concept, as developed within the European context. In the past there have been policy initiatives to stimulate economic growth, jobs and innovation that stress the relevance or organisational renewal and good quality jobs of employees. Workplace innovation initiatives are largely left to the initiative of companies, industrial sectors and trade unions in the context of the political dominance of neo-liberalism. Nonetheless it can observed that several companies take up workplace innovation in one form or another. Roughly 10% of Dutch companies are active with the implementation of similar methods and measures. Often, the companies themselves do not use the term workplace innovation (or social innovation), and they are not per se aware of the debate in the world of research, consultancy and policy making in The Netherlands and Europe



Oeij, Peter; Vaas, Fietje; Steven Dhondt: Two cases of workplace innovation in the Netherlands. (sept. 2022) TNO report.

Presentation by Peter Oeij in Korea.

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