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The Power List
Tracy Skeans, chief transformation and people officer of Yum Brands Inc.

How Yum Brands is working to increase women and minorities in leadership

Tracy Skeans, chief transformation and people officer, on investing in talent development programs. Meet the innovative, inclusive and industry changing leaders of the 2021 NRN Power List.

Tracy Skeans, chief transformation and people officer of Yum Brands Inc., was chosen for the 2021 NRN Power List by CEO David Gibbs because of her ability to drive business results while championing the company’s people-first culture. Here’s what else Gibbs had to say:

With more than 20 years at Yum! Brands, Tracy is a dynamic and multi-faceted leader with a strong track record of driving sustainable results across our global business, people-first culture and brands. As our chief transformation and people officer, Tracy was a central strategist behind Yum!’s organizational transition to a pure play franchisor and continues to drive enterprise performance across our Recipe for Growth & Good, while championing global equity and inclusion and our social purpose. Under her leadership, Yum! has integrated The Habit Burger Grill and Heartstyles, a team member leadership development program designed to transform the employee and customer experience. While COVID-19 presented unprecedented challenges for our people, franchisees, customers and industry, Tracy’s cross-functional and operations leadership was critical in mobilizing our brands to protect the health, safety and engagement of our corporate and restaurant teams.

Nation’s Restaurant News talked with Tracy Skeans on how the company’s culture allowed it to quickly mobilize to help its 1.6 million team members during the pandemic. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during this chaotic year? 

COVID-19 reminded us that, in a crisis, you don’t have time to second guess yourself. The urgency of the situation – and the critical need to ensure the health and safety of our restaurant teams, franchisees and customers – forced me, and many of us at Yum!, to be even more courageous than we’ve been in years past. This, in turn, strengthened the resolve and conviction of leaders in our restaurants and our support centers. Courageous people think, I might be a little nervous because I’ve never dealt with this before, but I’m going to work hard and know that I’ve got people around me who I can lean on. I’m courageous enough to step into the fire. And I was so inspired seeing how our people rose to the occasion.


What are you most proud of in terms of company leadership and community impact as you look back at the challenges of 2020? 

This year challenged us to strike the right balance around addressing the complex needs of our global business, 1.6 million team members and our customers. However, it was also an opportunity for us to show the strength of our people-first culture. From providing additional bonuses to restaurant general managers, to offering support to U.S. team members in company-owned restaurants who were impacted by COVID-19, to launching a global medical relief fund for employees, to the food donations our franchisees and restaurant teams provided to their communities and essential workers on the front lines – our entire system banded to confront challenges with a great amount of heart. I take great pride knowing we were able to accomplish all of this because of the decades we’ve spent building our unrivaled culture, which starts at the top of our organization and is driven by every individual at the company. 

How are you or your company fostering diverse and inclusive future leaders of foodservice? 

We continue investing in programs and making tangible improvements in the way women and under-represented minorities are supported. I’m particularly proud of Yum!’s work to advance women into senior leadership roles, which has made more progress over the past two years than in the prior 10 and resulted in 44% of women currently in global management positions, up from 35% in 2016.

Plus, we continue our work with the Paradigm for Parity Coalition, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, We Are All Human’s Hispanic Promise, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, and the Women’s Foodservice Forum, of which I am a board member. We’ve also conducted an internal survey to gauge pay parity across gender and ethnicities, expanded our Inclusive Leadership training, further invested in our employee resource groups and Equity, Inclusion and Belonging team, and launched our Unlocking Opportunity Initiative pledging $100 million over five years to fight inequality.

Editor’s note: Skeans was promoted to chief operating officer at Yum Brands in February 2021.

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