Being the employer of choice

The Broader Context

The world of work is changing, and the speed of change is increasing. While companies recognise that they need to be agile to take advantage of these fast-changing developments, workers need to ensure they have the skills and versatility to remain employable as the pension age continues to increase.

One example is the unique challenges an ageing population is creating for the labour market. Many industries are now facing a shortage of workers, and need to focus on their diversity and inclusion practices to ensure they can attract a young and diverse workforce. This will help to both introduce a rich variety of ideas and perspectives, while enabling companies to better succeed going forward.

At the same time, technological innovations are leading to greater automation, through robotics and artificial intelligence. This has the potential to create greater productivity and increased efficiency, while altering the types of jobs we do.

It is also clear that new generations have a very different way of working and learning, with a far more independent attitude towards their employer. Many of today’s younger employees look at developing career paths that will help them maintain a strong focus on their life outside of work. For some, this involves care-taking duties for families or friends, connected to the aging population.

At LW/M, we continue to focus on developing our employees as we work to surpass our customers’ expectations. As our employment needs change, we are working with our people to empower them, while focusing on their personal growth and well-being.

We strongly believe that personal growth and well-being are the energy sources for sustainable performance. Over the last few years we have grown the number of FTEs within the company across a wide-range of areas and geographies, creating an even more diverse and inclusive work environment. We will continue to develop the company as our needs, and those of our customers, continue to evolve.


Our 2020 objective is to improve the workplace safety, health and well-being of our employees, their development and job satisfaction. We want to be a Great Place to Work®. 

2018 Results versus 2008 baseline

  • Total Incident Rate (TIR) was 1.31, a 30% reduction
  • Lost Time Accidents (LTA) rate was 1.03, a 27% increase
  • Absentee Rate was 4.45%, an 11% increase
  • Employee Turnover was 8.8%, a 13% reduction
  • Trust-index of 63% in our second company-wide Great Place to Work® (GPtW) survey, a 2%-point improvement

Key Results 2017 - 2018

Implementation of our Company Management Model

Our Company Management Model (CMM) describes how we manage our company. While the model we used served us well for many years, there came a point where we needed to transform the way we manage our company.

The need for this transformation is driven by both external and internal factors. The external world has become more volatile, uncertain and complex. Customers and consumers are more focused, transparency has increased and there is strong competition in the potato industry. At the same time, the world within LW/M is also developing rapidly.

This transformation is the single largest change to our operating model in 25 years. It is necessary because of a number of specific, major changes that are taking place. These include:

  • The size of the company has changed dramatically over the last 25 years.
  • Our customers’ appetites are changing. Today, we produce an extensive, highly diverse range of high-quality, innovative products for 1,700 customers in 90 countries. The need to adapt to rapidly changing market demands is becoming increasingly important.
  • Competition is increasing every year. We never underestimate our peers, and we expect the speed of change and competition to intensify in the future. So, we need to be able to anticipate changing markets, and act quickly and decisively.

To ensure we are able to continue on our growth path, we changed our CMM and launched a transformation program focused on the following three elements that support each other:

  • Organisational design: we shifted the way our organisation is structured from one that was functionally organised to one focused around our customers, and concentrated in business units
  • Governance: we have strengthened our governance model, moving towards a more formal structure.
  • Way of working: we have developed the way we lead, behave and work, based on empowerment and our company values.

Move to a matrix model
By moving from a functional model to a matrix model, we are creating cross-functional teams that share a common goal of adding value to our customers. While each team member will make their own individual contributions, collectively the team will deliver more, benefiting our customers and us.

The matrix model will also help us better share best practices and skills across departments. We will be able to tap into diverse skill sets from a range of teams across the company, which will help us implement our strategy. 

Greater employee empowerment
To make the matrix model work, we need to change the waywe work. A cross-functional, cross-business model is vital to our success. By moving away from a command and control model to one that empowers our people, we give additional people across all levels of the organisation the opportunity to take more decisions themselves. We believe this will create more productive, engaged and happier employees, leading to greater customer satisfaction. It will also help us in our goal of creating a Great Place to Work®

‘When I started working at Oosterbierum a few years ago, Lamb Weston had decent name recognition among local schools. However, in recent years we have really improved our name recognition by giving lectures on opportunities in the food industry, and organising tours and visits of our factories. Going into classrooms and talking about innovations in the food sector really sparks children’s imagination, and brings the topic to life. They also want to know about our sustainability agenda, and ask questions about how ethical we are. This is a very important issue for the new generation. The result of this is that we have seen an increase in applications, both for jobs and internships. They view us as a desirable employer, and this helps us provide them with a great place to work.’  

Marcel Hirs
HR Manager
LW/M Oosterbierum
Oosterbierum, Netherlands

‘With the new Company Management Model (CMM), we are creating a company built around our customers. The one-size-fits-all model simply doesn’t work, so we need an organisation based around capabilities. We know that all of our customers are different, which means they need different skills and competences from within the company. This means that customers will enjoy a more personalised service from us, and they will recognise that we are putting even greater focus on understanding their individual needs. The CMM will also help us create a Great Place to Work, as our people will be able to dedicate more of their time to customer development and satisfaction. We are an international company, and despite being based in the Netherlands, the company language is English. This means we attract people from different countries and backgrounds, which creates a richer pool of employees, expanding our knowledge, experience, and diversity.’

Brigitte Noteboom
Commercial Operations Leader
LW/M Commercial Frozen
Breda, the Netherlands

‘A sustainable agenda within a company is very important to me. It is crucial that the company I work for not only puts a great deal of effort into ensuring they don’t negatively impact the environment, but that they also look at the impact they are having inside the company. I came across a great example of this sort of thinking during my time as an intern at LW/M. Employees were asked to come up with topics not necessarily connected to business that the company could help them with. For example, one employee said she would like help funding a gym membership, so that she could work on her health. Others suggested a part-time education programme, which they could follow in their free-time. I think this is a tremendous initiative from LW/M, helping employees develop in areas they find important. To me, this is another form of sustainability in practice.’

Stephanie van Splunder
Intern, Operational Excellence Programme
LW/M Bergen op Zoom
Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands

Second Great Place to Work® survey

In 2017 we carried out our second Great Place to Work® (GPtW) survey, with an employee response rate of 83%. This resulted in an overall Trust Index® of 63%, up from 61% measured in our 2015 survey. Despite this minor increase, we fell short of the level required to become a Great Place to Work®. While we were slightly disappointed by the overall result, we have seen great results in certain teams and areas.

One of the survey’s main takeaways was our need to put greater emphasis on our appraisal cycle, communications and leadership style. This means creating continuous, two-way dialogue between our people and line managers, and a continuous cycle of feedback and coaching; not only looking back, but also looking forward and focusing on development.

We have already increased the frequency of discussions between our people and their line managers to three times per year, which will help us uncover valuable information. At the same time, focusing on coaching will lead to greater empowerment. By encouraging employees to feel empowered and take the initiative, we believe we will create a culture of self-starters.

Finally, we have begun organising employee feedback sessions, which will help us drive the action plans, and we will continue these towards our next survey in 2020

Sustainable employability project group

In 2016 we established a sustainable employability project group to support employees in achieving life-time employability in a healthy, sustainable manner. From this, we identified two key issues that we need to focus on to increase our people’s employability.

We know that people need to be aware that good health is not something they can take for granted. Understanding your health helps prevent long-term problems. And we know that healthier employees are both happier and more productive. We are tackling this in two ways:

  • First, we are focusing on educating our people about the benefits of healthy living by giving them access to health checks and health programs through our health insurance.
  • Second, we are investing in a work environment that stimulates people’s mental and physical health.

The employee
We believe sustainable employability is about ensuring our people are engaged, motivated, healthy and productive. But responsibility for this lies mainly with them. We need our people to question their own career paths, and engage with us to help them develop new skills as our business changes. What do employees expect from us? And how can we work together to make these expectations a reality? These are the questions we need to answer together.

The line manager
To facilitate this, we are creating a culture through ongoing training and feedback, where our people can have an open and productive dialogue with their line manager. The ultimate aim is for our people to take charge of their own future, supported by the company. We want our people, no matter what their age, to embrace lifelong learning and development.

Skills development

The success of our business is dependent on the skills of our people, which is why we subscribe to the lifelong learning model. Between 2016-2018, we intensified our efforts to promote learning among our employees, not only via training but also on the job, learning from colleagues, job rotations and taking on new assignments.

Learning and development
We recently began using the 70-20-10 learning and development model. The intention is to encourage people to look for ways to learn, or apply what they have already learned, whenever and wherever they are working. The focus of the model is on employees getting 70% of their knowledge and skills from job-related experiences, 20% through learning from colleagues via feedback and coaching, and 10% from training courses. We are communicating the model across the company, with the aim of triggering people to question why they follow a training course, and how they can better apply what they have learned in their work.

LW/M Academy 
The LW/M Academy offers employees a wide selection of online and classroom-based learning modules in three main areas: Technical skills, such as through continuous skill development available across all our plants; competencies; and leadership. During the reporting period, we worked with organisations such as FranklinCovey, a world leader in consulting and training, to revise and update the Academy’s leadership and competency catalogue. As well as looking at the range of training courses on offer, we also looked at the way courses are offered.

Rather than simply providing a training that starts and ends on a given date, the new system focuses on creating an Impact Journey. The aim is to add new training dimensions, while supporting employees during the learning process. For example, training courses now begin with online activities one month before the course starts, integrating inter-vision sessions, and the employee’s manager is involved throughout. Our goal is to continue to develop the Academy going forward.

Safety First

We continued to operate Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) teams across all of our plants, which we introduced for the first time in 2015. The aim continues to be to reduce accidents in the plant by training employees in observation techniques. The programme allows colleagues to observe other colleagues as they work, and then provide feedback on how to improve safety.

The BBS teams are made up of volunteer employees, with no supervisors. We have learned that it is more effective if employees receive feedback from their direct colleagues, rather than from supervisors or managers. We also continued to meet regularly with all of the company’s safety representatives at the plants to set out a policy to reach zero accidents. This will be an ongoing goal.

We were very proud of the special achievement realised at our Hollabrunn plant, where last FY the employees worked more than 500 days¹ without one recordable accident or Lost Time Accident (LTA), which is in line with the Zero Accidents goal. This was made possible by engaging everyone on the importance of safety, and stressing that it is strongly related to personal behaviour, and a clear, systematic way of discussing the desired behaviour.

Work-related fatal accidents and occupational disease rate (ODR) were zero during the reporting period.

Total Incident Rate (TIR) was 1.31, a 30% reduction, while our Lost Time Accident (LTA) rate was 1.03, a 27% increase, both compared to our 2008 baseline. The increasing trend in the past two years was mainly caused by working with new, inexperienced employees and having jobs filled by temporary staff due to illness or vacancies in our plants, which increases the overall work pressure. This underlines the importance of further enhancing our Behaviour-Based Safety Culture, embracing continuous learning, and effectively integrating our high company safety standards when adding lines and new plants.

[1] By the time of publishing this report, the Hollabrunn plant passed 600 days without one recordable incident

Absentee Rate

Our absentee rate was 4.45% at the end of FY18, 11% higher than our 2008 baseline. The differences between our locations are mainly driven by long-term illnesses.


Employee turnover was 8.8% at the end of FY18, 13% lower than in 2008. Levels consistently decreased at most of our production facilities between 2008-2015, and have increased again since 2015. This is mainly driven by the economic situation, resulting in few vacancies in the job market increasing to a very buoyant job market. At the same time, turnover for corporate jobs has decreased continuously since 2008.

Outlook for 2019/2020

In the coming two years, we will continue our focus on our greatest asset: our people. This will involve further embedding sustainable employability at all levels of the company. To achieve this, we will focus on three key areas:

Shifting to an empowerment culture
The CMM is challenging people to look at their responsibilities and work in a new manner. This can be quite confronting and challenging for some. However, we believe that, based on trust and support, our employees will be able to rise to the challenge, benefitting them and the company. Our goal will be to help people change their behaviour by losing old habits, and learning new ones.

Developing employer branding
In 2015 we opened a commercial office in Breda, the Netherlands, to provide access to a larger pool of skilled staff. This has helped us in a number of ways, including:

  • Attracting a broader range of employees
  • Enabling us to introduce flexible working
  • And providing us with a fresh image among potential employees

Given the buoyancy of the Dutch economy, however, the labour market remains competitive and challenging. Our goal is to continue to reach out into the community to look for ways to attract and employ the people we need to further strengthen our company.

Our production locations are located close to where we source our potatoes. One of the downsides to this is that, in general, the labour market is less buoyant than in more urban areas. Given our ongoing requirements for qualified and skilled staff, we need to further work on our employer branding to help attract employees to all our locations. If we want to continue to grow, we recognise that we need great employees and have to strengthen our succession pipeline. 

Sustainable employability: healthier shift patterns
Within the Netherlands we will move towards a five-shift pattern, which has two main benefits: it will increase our production capacity and flexibility, while providing employees with a healthier shift pattern.

Continuing to develop diversity and inclusion
We believe our company should reflect the diversity of the societies in which we operate. As well as creating a richer, more inclusive working environment, it also means we are more in tune with the outside world, enabling us to adapt to its fast-changing demands. This will make us a stronger, more agile organisation.

A diverse company is one in which there is a good balance across a variety of areas. For us, this means focusing on:
Generation and age
We want to employ a healthy mix of people, from those who have just completed higher education, through to professionals who have been working for years.

  • Gender
    Striking the correct balance between males and females at all levels of the organisation is vital if we are to create a strong, supportive, and creative company that benefits from a broad range of perspectives.
  • Culture and nationality
    We are an international company, and we employ an international, multi-cultural workforce. This not only strengthens our ability to do business, it enriches our working environment. 
  • Experience
    We have a great deal of experience within the company. However, we recognise the importance of bringing in new ideas from outside the company as well. By employing people with experience from a variety of industries, we strengthen our resource base and support our growth ambitions.

At the same time, we continue to ensure everyone feels included. As an international company based in the Netherlands, with English as our corporate language, we are proud of the broad range of nationalities, cultural backgrounds, languages, religions, and expertise areas that make up our workforce. We believe that inclusion involves welcoming people’s differences, identifying their similarities, and supporting their needs.

In 2018, we began measuring a range of diversity and inclusion KPIs across the company, including on gender, age, experience inside and outside the company, and nationality. Over the coming two years, our aim is to introduce a strategy and achievable targets to ensure that diversity will not only increase, but will also be perceived as adding value to the growth of the company and to personal growth.

This will enable us to become more open to outside changes (opportunities and threats) and more agile internally when it comes to anticipating those changes.

Key challenges

We have identified three key challenges:

  • Permeating the functional silos and embedding the behaviour of people linked to the empowerment culture
  • Building the skills and capabilities needed for the future to counteract an aging population, while dealing with new requirements due to robotics, digitalisation, and so on.
  • Social innovation: how do we deal with changing work environments, types of contracts, roles between employers and employees.

By working on these challenges, we will create a company better able to meet the future. Many of the programmes we are already working on will look at tackling these topics.