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How L&D Can Support LGBTQ+ Inclusion


Mon Jun 26 2023

How L&D Can Support LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Curious about exactly what inclusive organizations do to “get it right”? This Pride month, I reached out to April Hennessey, director of innovation and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practice lead at Blanchard, to learn more about her work helping to create inclusive workplaces.

What’s one thing your organization is doing to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees?

April Hennessey: Blanchard has approached LGBTQ+ inclusion by making space for organization-wide conversation about the LGBTQ+ lived experience during Pride month, which is celebrated in June in the US and in several other countries. However, the conversation and support aren’t contained to this month alone. We’ve seen support from the top down and from the bottom up both in moments of crisis and conflict and in moments of celebration.


Like many organizations, Blanchard is still figuring out how to navigate the ever-expanding world of DEI. Systems notoriously move much slower than individuals, and these issues are complex and entangled with so many things—processes, policies, organizational culture, and more.

The thing I love most about working at Blanchard is the way we employ the tools and skills we encourage our clients to adopt. We have difficult conversations with one another. We pause to learn from one another. Our People and Culture (HR) department sends out frequent surveys to take the pulse of the organization on a variety of topics, and they share the data with us. Our town halls with our president, Scott Blanchard, are often defined by people’s questions, challenges, or even concerns. We engage in a loop of feedback, results, and response or action. As a result, the organization is one of the most transparent and forthright that I’ve ever been part of. I find that so valuable, especially in moments of change or instability.

What role can L&D professionals play in creating a more inclusive environment?

April Hennessey: We can all be better informed. The world is moving at a pace that sometimes feels terrifyingly swift. It can feel daunting to keep up with the way that language, feelings, and the general zeitgeist shift from day to day. Whatever your role or function in an organization, you have a part to play in cultivating an inclusive environment.

Consider the language you use. This could be modeling pronoun usage in introductions or an email signature. Or it might mean adapting your questions when asking people about their personal lives or families. I can’t tell you how often someone has asked me about my husband, which has required a compulsory “coming out” on my part.

Instead, if you’re in a space where personal conversation is appropriate, you can ask about someone’s partner or significant other. Even better, you might say in an open and curious way, “I’d love to hear about the people in your life who are important to you.”


When we begin to ask questions that are open and don’t require people to fit themselves into the boxes of our imagination or expectation, we allow for so much more intimacy and expansiveness in our interactions. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community have had difficult or tumultuous relationships with their families of origin or have faced countless legal barriers to their primary relationships and family building, so those relationships can look different than they might for people who haven’t experienced these same hurdles.

What recommendations do you have for folks getting started?

April Hennessey: Getting started is often the hardest part because it can feel so overwhelming. Whatever the inclusion topic or issue is, get curious and be open. There will be some discomfort when you try new ways of thinking, seeing, or perceiving the world, so start in ways that feel safe and manageable.

  • Read, watch, listen, consume. If you feel underprepared, start consuming content that will give you perspective, build your vocabulary, and allow you to begin to unpack some of your assumptions and biases. Broadening the TV shows you watch, the books you read (fiction or nonfiction), the influencers you follow, or podcasts you listen to is a great first step toward expanding your awareness of parts of the world and human experiences you might not know about.

  • Do the work. One of the best ways to meet people with different perspectives is to sign up for activities, projects, or volunteer work that touch on issues, communities, and people you might not otherwise engage with. Dig in. Do the work of learning, serving, and internalizing what’s at stake.

Any go-to resources that have been helpful for you or your organization?

April Hennessey: There are lots of organizations out there doing solid work. A couple of quick web searches will yield a wealth of resources. I love to search for things like “best employers for diversity” and then do a deep dive. I read the list of employers and look at their websites. Particularly, I’m looking for portions of organization websites devoted to DEI, and I want to know:

  • Is their DEI work a check-the-box activity? Is it a soft suggestion rather than a measurable, programmatic, and organization-supported effort?

  • What are their policies? How do they support their employees? How do they show up for their clients and their vendors?

  • Do they have data about their employee population? Is there disaggregated data to review?

  • Do they have a public-facing DEI strategy for the organization that will require them to have some measure of public accountability for their claims or goals?

Sometimes, as individuals or as organizations, we worry about getting it wrong so we don’t begin at all. Getting it wrong isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Not beginning at all is a much bigger problem. Embarking on the journey with intention, a solid strategy, a plan for sustainment, and transparency will go a long way—even when things go awry—to engender trust, loyalty, and support.

About April Hennessey:


April Hennessey, the Director of Innovation and the DEI Practice Lead for Blanchard® merges her playfulness as a tinkerer in the Innovation Lab with her passion for inclusion and accessibility. An early and discerning adopter of emerging technologies, she empowers organizations to find tools that will most engage their learners and enable them to unleash their individual and collective potential. April is an end-to-end learning-experience designer, consultant, strategist, and innovator who drives business results through enterprise-aligned, award-winning solutions across the globe in various industries. Her experience includes community organizing, speaking engagements, facilitating professional development, starting and running ERGs, and digital design and deployment of DEI courses for global organizations.

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