Working to support everything from the fight against malaria to the power behind electric cars, Imerys is a world leader in specialist minerals for industry, with a revenue of $4.3bn and a 14,000-strong workforce across 40 countries. And as an employer, it’s known to ambitious engineers everywhere.


For over a decade, Imerys had been building and running a very successful global leadership program. But then the pandemic struck. Would lockdowns knock it all down?


The Imerys global talent team worked closely with Korn Ferry to reprioritize and reimagine the format and content of the program, initially online and then in an inventive new hybrid form.


Despite the pandemic and subsequent Great Resignation, retention and motivation across Imerys’ teams is impressively strong, and ratings for the program—including NPS scores—are at an all-time high.

The challenge

Developing unstoppable leaders in an unstable world

When Imerys created its immersive, in-person leadership program ten years ago, there was a crystal-clear focus: to build a pipeline of leaders ready to step up and inspire the business before the current senior leadership team hit retirement. It was immediately successful and became even more so over time.

In 2019, Imerys decided to restructure to become more market- oriented, respond more quickly and efficiently to customer needs and ultimately grow to its full potential. This meant leaders were having to step into their roles at a faster pace. And if that was not enough, the pandemic hit, threatening to shut down their most important source of support and delay their much needed development.  

Marianna Demiri, Global Talent Director, knew that stopping the program simply wasn’t an option; it did so much good in terms of motivating and retaining talent, as well as protecting the future of the growing business. At the same time, she had no idea how to deliver an immersive program when teams couldn’t meet in person, especially when they worked across countries and time zones. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“We’re not going to grow as an organization if people have fixed mindsets, and think and behave in the same way when the environment is changing.”

Marianna Demiri, Group Talent Director, Imerys

The solution

Reimagining leadership development for generations to come

Demiri and her team had been coordinating and facilitating the Imerys Leadership program alongside Korn Ferry for several years before the pandemic, and so they decided to come together once again to plot a new leadership development future.

The first step, immediately after lockdown began, was to review the entire program and agree which elements would work most easily and effectively as virtual sessions. Together, Imerys and Korn Ferry figured out an effective path forward, with all sessions moving to virtual while travel was not an option.

By 2022, teams were ready to return to face-to-face training, but was the old model the best course forward for the business? The talent team once again turned to Korn Ferry to figure out which elements of the program were better on screen and which ones needed the in-person connection to really ‘click’.

While some elements moved permanently online, every effort was made to keep the spirit of the internal sharing and networking across teams and countries, because that’s what had made the program so strong in the past. This led to the development of an exciting new hybrid model that uses online in areas where it makes sense but also includes in-person events throughout the year.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“A fantastic caliber of facilitators from Korn Ferry accompanied the group throughout and have been exceptional in their level of facilitation.”

Marianna Demiri, Group Talent Director, Imerys

The results

An award-winning leadership development program

The leadership program that was developed 10 years ago and has evolved over time is now the program that everyone wants to take part in.

Those taking part in the program consistently rate the program highly, with a 96% internal NPS score, and over 95% of people who start the course complete it. More women are taking part now too—the latest cohort was roughly 35% (a figure that Demiri and the team are still working to increase). The new virtual and hybrid versions of the program even won a Brandon Hall Gold Award for best unique or innovative leadership program.

What began as a straightforward leadership development program a decade ago has now evolved into so much more. It’s a symbol of the whole organization’s commitment to developing and retaining its best people.


Leadership & Professional Development

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