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Imperial Brands Case Study

If Imperial Brands was to have any chance of maintaining its position at the forefront of the industry, it wouldn’t be enough to simply ‘keep up’ with a changing market; it would need to lead the change by building global leadership capability that steers ambitious transformation.



If Imperial were to have any chance of maintaining its position at the forefront of the industry, it wouldn’t be enough to simply ‘keep up’ with a changing market; it would need to lead the change. Due to their size, frequent acquisitions and a large geographical spread, development was inconsistent across the board. Structured leadership development was reserved for a minority of senior leaders, but for the rest, leadership development varied widely and for many was non-existent. They were in great need for consistent leadership development at all levels in order to help drive the company’s much-needed transformation.

Ambitious leadership transformation

It's a challenge that would rattle even the most seasoned L&D team: taking a business based in 40 countries, with approximately 30,000 employees, speaking some 10 core languages, and designing and implementing a global leadership development framework as the business was undertaking the biggest transformation in its history - entirely from scratch.  

However, this is exactly the unenviable task the team at Imperial took on back in 2017. 

Setting new Leadership Expectations, they quickly gained global adoption and began to build an ambitious, global program aimed to ‘democratize’ learning and increase access to much-needed development for Imperials’ 2000 worldwide leaders.

Design, deliver and develop leadership capability

Partnering with global leadership development experts, LHH meant they could ensure the program design was based on best practice and independent expertise yet still tailored around Imperial’s values and objectives. The team created an inclusive leadership development program that included both online and face-to-face workshops:


  • A portal so that all Leadership Development can be found in one place and easy to find available in 9 languages
  • An in-house developed suite of 9 digital learning modules
  • Access to online Harvard courses to develop people leader knowledge
  • People leader skills development workshops.  Aimed at two key groups, with separate pathways for those leading others, called “Dare to Lead” and those leading managers called “Inspire to Lead”. 

Global adoption

The program was sponsored by an OpEx member and the blu Commercial Director and was driven by a Global Working Party ensuring it addressed the key issues facing the business now and in the future. Each program had a senior local leader endorsing the business criticality and guiding the leaders through their development journey. The business has seen the value, as so many have chosen to pay for the training from their local budget.

Lasting results


It was important for Imperial to ensure this program was scalable and affordable for all leaders. In a typical market this has resulted in an 83% reduction in costs of running a leadership development program with local supplier. This consistency, aligned to the organization’s strategy and behaviors, is invaluable in a global business where Imperial have over 200 leaders on international assignments at any one time. 

The benefits for the business and the participants have been evidenced:


  • Learner satisfaction has increased from 56% to 85% - an increase in nearly 30% as overall costs have decreased 10-fold
  • Business results have improved year on year against a backdrop of the increasing industry challenges and the changes Imperial have been deploying internally to prepare the organization for the future.  Net revenue up 2.1% at £7.7bn
  • Once programs are completed these line managers have reported great successes and taken actions as a result; with 43% already giving their team member additional projects, responsibilities or a promotion.
  • 23 leadership development programs have been run or scheduled so far in 11 countries, for over 240 leaders, with many more being planned, from the USA to Germany, the Middle East to Africa 


What our clients and saying


The feedback from the program has also been strong from the participants, the participants' managers and wider stakeholders:


  • “I am really happy that Imperial Brands invested in my leadership development and I hope that I can do it justice.” – Georgiana Cava, Senior Product Stewardship Toxicologist
  • “My team members who have been in this program are fairly new to this level of senior management and to managing managers and what I have seen is really their maturity grow and their standing in their own right as confident leaders of this organization. Their experience has been hugely positive, their feedback to me has been that it has been the best course that they have been on in their careers, without a doubt.” - Joe Thompson, Director of Group Science
  • “You know this is the new world, we have a very proud tobacco legacy here but we are now really focused on the future and that requires news skills and different behaviors and I think such courses help along that journey.” – Grant O’Connell, Head of Scientific Affairs
  • “The feedback has been fantastic from everyone involved in the leadership development programs, the stakeholders across the organization have seen a real shift in behaviors of the leaders, the individuals themselves are reporting that they are much more confident and able to deal with the challenges that their day to day role faces, and their people leaders are telling us they are able to give them more accountability, more responsibility and really shift the behavior we want for our 2025 strategy.” – Neal Harris, Global Head of Leadership & Learning