Global tobacco manufacturer Gallaher is the world's fifth largest tobacco business, with a turnover of £8.2bn last year. It operates in 80 countries, and employs around 12,000 people, of which 1,700 are located in the UK and Ireland. The HR team consists of a small central group of 11, supported by a network of HR units, either working at country or regional level, or at specific manufacturing institutions.
Gallaher has transferred much of the transactional HR work to shared-services teams - an initiative piloted in the UK and set to be rolled out across the business, complemented by HR business partners in specific locations.
In the recent past, much of Gallaher's global growth has been generated through acquisition. Its most recent purchases include Austrian state tobacco monopoly Austria Tabac and Russian business Liggett-Ducat. In 2006, it also acquired CITA Tabacos de Canarias, a Spanish group of companies.
Gallaher's challenge is to complete the successful integration of these companies - and continue to deliver strong organic growth and good returns to shareholders, according to Neil Hayward, group HR director.
At the same time, the industry faces increasing regulation and declining sales volumes in some markets, for a mix of health and cultural reasons. Gallaher also faces another constraint that most sectors do not: attracting people to join the tobacco industry.
"We know we are in a controversial sector," says Hayward. "Not everyone wants to work in tobacco. It is therefore very important that we hang on to our very best people, and that we give both them and potential recruits a clear message about the sort of company we are, and how we see our future."
Taking into account these growing challenges, Gallaher decided to embark on a company-wide change programme, called 'Committed to Excellence'.
The programme began in September 2005, but was only formally launched in March this year. It was built by involving Gallaher staff "bottom-up, as well as top-down", expl