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Yum CEO David Gibbs Shows Culture Focus with Heartstyles Acquisition


The work to build a great culture is never ending and more difficult than just about any time in recent memory. To help ease that difficulty, Yum has acquired Heartstyles, a leadership development program with the tagline, “Personal development for business growth.” 

The company was founded by Stephen and Mara Klemich, a longtime development coach for executive teams and his wife a neuropsychologist. Both have a long history of consulting executive teams and big companies, but said the tools they used always came up short. So, they developed Heartstyles, which they say is a “statistically valid system built over 18 years,” according to Stephen Klemich. 

The big difference between Heartstyles and other personality-driven development tools like Meyers & Briggs or Enneagram is that it’s less of a box that someone fits in personality wise and more of a “starting point from which to grow.” The tools behind the program are also built for that and ready for scale. That includes personal development timelines with goals and focus areas, the kind of thing a company can give to each employee and peg against monetary awards or responsibility growth. 

A key part of the program is the Heartstyles Indicator, an assessment that helps individuals “identify insights and actions steps.” Like any cultural work, the idea is that will lead employees at any level be more positive about their jobs and see a growth trajectory ahead of them. 

Yum hasn’t said exactly how the program will be implemented in the business, but an early focus will be on general managers. 

"When we and our franchisees have strong and engaged Restaurant General Managers, they lead inspired teams, the customers feel it and it positively impacts results. We believe Heartstyles is a powerful tool to help our 2,000 franchisees consistently deliver and sustain a great customer experience and grow restaurant sales,” said Yum CEO David Gibbs. 

Gibbs, who took over as CEO on January 1, with a special emphasis reinvigorating the people and culture part of the Yum strategy. 

“David lives and breathes our people-first culture and is determined to take it to the next level. I look forward to cheering on David and everyone at Yum! Brands as a friend, loyal customer and shareholder,” said outgoing CEO Greg Creed, who retired after 25 years with the company. 

Gibbs said a strong culture essentially makes everything better. 

"I’m committed to elevating the experience for each of our 40 million customers every day and achieving the kind of unit economics only made possible with an exceptional culture and talent. Scaling Heartstyles globally can help us consistently and measurably strengthen our people-first culture from the corner office to the restaurant," said Gibbs. 

The announcement is the beginning of a “multi-year plan” to roll Heartstyles out to the more than 2,000 franchisees who operate the vast majority of Yum restaurants around the world. 

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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