developing talent

A talent development programme for the largest UK tobacco business – developing the top 250 leaders for the challenge of trading in the 21st century.

Business situation

The combined international and UK arms of the business were trading successfully at the end of the 20th century, although two key challenges were identified:

  • the possibility of a merger
  • increased evidence of future legislation that would curtail the marketing activity of tobacco companies, literally creating a dark market.

The UK organisation was identified as the lead subsidiary to develop the top 250 Leaders (below board of management level) and the top 50 high potential managers.

The 300 individuals worked in over 60 countries.

Business measures had to be applied to ensure that the project 'broke-even' within 18 months.

Activity and intervention

Our initial involvement centred on a culture audit and climate survey. This was carried out by focusing on the five largest markets (current and emerging) and through the use of remote structured questioning, profiling and input from HR, OD and training professionals.

Using the initial study we created a series of business hypotheses to address the key issues head on and laid bare some unpalatable truths which the senior team subsequently recognised needed to be addressed. Working with the incumbent 'outplacement and career management' provider TDA we put together a plan to do so.

The 'Developing Your Potential' programme was designed and four pilots were run within the European operation before roll-out across the global business.

Cohorts and learning sets were established and some tailored coaching was delivered for the High Potential population. A total of 17 cohort groups were run prior to the merger

Outcomes achieved

A disproportionate number of participant leaders were selected to take on senior positions within the merged business.

Aspects of the DYP programme (Fit for Future) are still running today within the operating companies, of which there are 80 around the world.

The internal communications brand for the programme – 'Strong enough to leave or committed to stay' - has entered the performance management language within the wider organisation.

Although difficult to assess because of the merger, it is felt that the increase in leadership capability more than paid for itself through the first year of the programme and more than repaid the investment during the merger period.

“This has been the most valuable and interesting experience I have ever invested my time into as well as a great ROI for the business. I was worried about the merger but your intervention changed that……...brilliant”.