Q and A with: Dennis Velco, OutBüro

With a staggering 48,000 global members, OutBüro is the largest LGBTQ+ group on LinkedIn – and is one of the first of any type of group to have been formed. 

It is also a standalone website, and the name OutBüro roughly translates to ‘out at work’ in German. In Dennis’ own words: “I wanted the site name to suggest a global community where everyone is welcome.”

He explains: “I tell people it is as if Glassdoor-com or Kununu and LinkedIn met, fell in love, and had a queer baby.” 

Employers of any size, type, or location in the world, can use OutBüro’s employer branding features and also post job openings as part of their diversity talent attraction strategy.

“We want employers to shine and showcase all they do for their LGBTQ employees, the community at large and diversity suppliers,” says Dennis.

“Having inclusive policies and benefits is important, valued, appreciated. But it is not the full picture of the employer, all they do, or the work culture.

OutBüro is an incredible resource, and one that has really fostered a global view of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Dennis asks: “Surely it is the world’s largest LGBTQ+ ERG?”

Let’s hear more from Dennis:

Why did you set up the LinkedIn group? “When LinkedIn launched its groups they were only focused on universities and colleges. Based on your profile, they would automatically place you in the group corresponding to the school you stated in your profile. There was no ‘Create a Group’ button. In 2008 I contacted LinkedIn’s support desk and over the course of a few weeks convinced them of the need for an LGBTQ group and volunteered to be the group’s moderator and administrator. I was travelling extensively and felt it was a way I could have some involvement in the community. “

Why did you start OutBüro.com? “It was conceptualised out of the lack of features on the LinkedIn platform, the vulnerability of the platform to remove the group features at any time [the organisation] so decided, and recognizing a huge gap in the LGBTQ inclusive index arena. 

“After launching the website OutBüro.com, I rebranded the LinkedIn group as OutBüro as well.

“I appreciate what other indexes do and have accomplished over the last 15-19 years. But at OutBüro we are striving to be different by not being not being Fortune 1000 exclusive. 

“We have the requirement that current or recent past employee have to provide proof of employment.

“OutBüro doesn’t rate employers and isn’t a DEI consultantancy but instead highlights the spirit of employers’ inclusion, authenticity and transparency and details their initiatives.

“The website and LinkedIn group has a strict rule that all content must be and remain office and brand safe – zero inappropriate content.”

Did you face any challenges along the way? “Yes, I hard launched the site with the minimum feature set in April 2020. The global covid pandemic as we all know started to get into full swing and that caused early employer adoption conversations to be placed on hold.

“I was told: ‘We just laid off 10 to 20 per cent of our workforce and all budgets are frozen. Contact us again in 3-4 months when covid is all over.’  We all know that we are still dealing with that.

“Many companies are hiring, and some budgets are opening to new projects, but it is still a struggle.  We are just now starting to re-ramp out our outreach efforts and seeking employers who are open to a proven employer branding and talent acquisition model focused on the LGBTQ diversity talent pool. “

Do you believe that workplaces as a whole are doing enough to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion? “Well, yes and no. Each employer is unique and on their on journey of realising and partaking the be well-studied benefits of being fully inclusive and understanding that it is not a one size fits all community.

“OutBüro desires to help each employer shine and fast track to great resources and, if needed, consultants to help them be an outstanding organisation and to help them realise the financial benefit from doing the right thing – again, there are numerous studies to support this.”

Are there particular sectors that are better than others? “Without a deep dive – yes. However, it is again unique to each employer. So a blanket statement of saying this or that industry is typically more or less LGBTQ+ inclusive will surely [frustrate or disappoint] those organisations that defy the blanket statement.

“LGBTQ+ professionals are in every industry and every employer. 

“With that, recent studies that spanned most of Western Europe and North America have found that still in 2021 more than 40 per cent of self-identifying LGBTQ+ employees are not out at work in fear of discrimination and harassment.”

What are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives? “Ones that realise there is no final destination, and that LGBTQ+ is complex and there is not a one-size fits all approach for the whole community.

“Also ones that realise policies, benefits, and programs that benefit the LGBTQ+ employees benefit all employees, the organisation, shareholders, and their customers and clients too. It is a journey of constant, listening, adapting, and evolving.”

Are you positive about the future for LGBTQ+ employees? “Well, I am a super-duper optimistic person, so, yes. With each step forward even if a fraction of a step, it is positive progress.

“Employers have the ability to provide dignity, respect, and safety for their employers even if their local state or country does not. We can be the change we want to see. OutBüro strives to assist in that journey.” 

Anything else? “OutBüro is a hub of LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion content, professional development, entrepreneur focused content. It has partnered with BusinessWire and Cision (PRNewsWire) for professional press release content. Happening Out TV is another collaborator: it produces a live nightly news show called Queer News Tonight. 

“And OutBüro has created the “OutBüro Voices” interview series which are video and audio interviews with LGBTQ professionals, entrepreneurs and HR professionals spanning the globe.  These engaging and insightful conversations are live on the website and five video platforms including YouTube and 27 audio apps such as Spotify, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Apple, Goolge, Amazon Music, Audible, and more.”

PS Tell us more about yourself, Dennis? “I lived and worked in Germany serving in the United States Army and then as a civilian for the US Department of Defense. My early career after the Army was focused on technology support for government and corporates.

“In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my son, and hiking and biking. When the weather is not cooperating I am a hobbyist artist.”

Dennis Velco is Founder/Chief Queer Officer at OutBuro Media LLC. Connect with Dennis on LinkedIn and on https://outburo.com 

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