How Kyndryl created its 'Out Role Models' programme to become an LGBTQ+ employer of choice

Kyndryl UK & Ireland’s ‘Out Role Models’ Program has been a crucial driver of inclusion for its LGBTQ+ employees, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from employees. By creating ambassadors who spotlight the fight for equality, the IT giant has become an employer of choice for the LGBTQ+ community...

Kyndryl UK & Ireland’s ‘Out Role Models’ programme was created to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ employees. It is both a place for them to speak openly about the fight for equality and a platform to share their stories, professional and personal, of being in the world with an LGBTQ+ identity.

The programme is a part of Kyndryl’s ambition to bring together voices at every level of seniority, creating a diversity of experience and insight that is crucial to the way the company does its business.

Sharon Treanor, Human Resources Director at Kyndryl, says Out Role Models is “all about making sure that people entering the business – or the industry – have someone to look towards to know that people have successfully made this journey before them and to know they’re not isolated.”

Treanor speaks to HR Grapevine to outline how Kyndryl created the programme, and why it has become a critical driver of inclusion, engagement, and productivity.

Sharon Treanor

Human Resources Director

What is the Out Role Models programme?

When Kyndryl became an independent entity after being spun off from IBM’s infrastructure services business in 2021, the company was in a somewhat unique position.

The company had a global presence, but its culture was a blank slate. This created a rare opportunity to build intentional and cohesive inclusion initiatives from the ground up, free from convoluted cultural barriers or historic schemes and programmes.

As such, Kyndryl has several complementary elements to its inclusion strategy. “Globally, we have established Kyndryl Inclusion Networks (KINs), creating space for colleagues to seek out help, advice, and allyship around their work and home lives,” explains Treanor. The KINs are established within country-level groups, making them local to everyone, but ladder up to executive sponsorship to ensure issues raised by the groups are heard and discussed at the highest level.

Kyndryl designed the Out Role Models programme to complement the work being done by the KINs. The purpose of the programs is to ensure the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ employees aren’t confined to the resource groups.

“Our Out Role Models act as visible ambassadors for the LGBTQ+ KIN, for both internal and external events and communications,” Treanor continues. “Having designated people act in this capacity really gives them authority to speak out more widely on issues and champion equality as a shared mission.”

The role models also run a listening service allowing colleagues from all backgrounds the opportunity to confidentially discuss LGBTQ+ topics, thereby providing a platform for frank discussion and honest conversation that is all too often lacking within the corporate world.

How does the Out Role Models programme avoid common pitfalls to drive LBGTQ+ inclusion?

As of 2023, a staggering 48% of LGBTQ+ workers in the UK do not feel comfortable to be ‘out’ in the workplace about their sexual orientation, per research from Deloitte.

This remarkable figure can be explained by two common downfalls of initiatives that underdeliver promises for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Firstly, such programmes are often top-down, creating resistance from employees and stifling allyship as workers are not given buy-in into the process.

Deloitte’s research also finds that nearly 60% say that allyship would help employees be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work. Employers must find a way to create allies within the organisation and establish support from all employees for LGBTQ+ workers if they are to feel included.

From the get-go and throughout these initiatives, we’re really trying to keep consultation and inclusion at the centre of everything. After all, you can’t change people processes without buy-in from your people

Sharon Treanor | Human Resources Director at Kyndryl

Accordingly, Treanor emphasises that Out Role Models is designed to put Kyndryl’s people at the centre. By doing so, it hopes to ensure that all employees recognise the importance of inclusion and are therefore more likely to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues.

You've read 60% of the article so far, subscribe to continue reading - plus lots more!

Subscribe now to myGrapevine+ and get access to our comprehensive knowledge portal.

Already a subscriber?Sign in

Welcome Back