Background The present study aimed to investigate the effects of a stepwise, bottom-up participatory program with a tailor-made intervention process addressing the level of mental retirement in a sample of Dutch employees. Mental retirement refers to feelings of being disconnected from your work and your organization. Prevention of mental retirement is important since sustainable employability is becoming more important in today’s society due to the ageing of the working population and the changes in skills demands. Methods This prospective cohort study with a one-year follow-up employs a sample of 683 employees of three organizations in The Netherlands, who filled out two questionnaires: at baseline and 1 year later. The dependent measure was mental retirement, which consists of three sub-concepts: developmental pro-activity, work engagement and perceived appreciation. Results Multilevel analysis (N = 466) showed that employees who more actively participated in the intervention(s) had a small but statistically significant larger decrease in mental retirement at follow-up. Conclusions The stepwise, bottom-up participatory program with a tailor-made intervention process shows a tendency to decrease the level of mental retirement in Dutch employees. However, the implementation of interventions could be further improved since it turned out to be very challenging to keep up participants’ commitment to the program. Future research should study the effectiveness of this program further with an improved study design (control group, multiple follow-ups, several data sources).