How to Create an Inclusive Onboarding Process for Nuerodivergent Employees

Click here to explore the page

This Global Inclusion Week, we are focusing on how to create an inclusive onboarding process for neurodivergent candidates.

The Importance of Inclusive Onboarding

In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 7 individuals are neurodivergent, meaning each new hire you make presents a unique opportunity to enhance your team’s creativity, problem-solving abilities, and overall diversity.

An effective onboarding process is crucial for the success and longevity of an employee’s tenure, making it an essential part of the employee lifecycle. Therefore, it’s essential to provide neurodiverse candidates with the support they need to integrate and thrive within your organisation.

By understanding neurodiversity and its range of conditions, businesses can foster inclusivity and harness the individual strengths that neurodiverse candidates bring.

Colourful staircase symbolising diverse paths in creating inclusive onboarding processes for neurodivergent employees

Understanding Neuordiversity

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of differences in brain function and behaviour. It acknowledges that everyone’s brain develops uniquely, much like fingerprints. While neurodiversity refers to all people, it is often highlighted in the context of neurological or developmental conditions such as:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia/DCD
  • Dyscalculia
  • Tourette Syndrome

Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodivergent people bring a range of abilities and strengths to any environment, yet stigma, lack of awareness, and insufficient infrastructure can lead to their exclusion. The Equality Act 2010 provides discrimination protection for most neurodivergent conditions, often categorised as ‘hidden disabilities’, assuring fair treatment and required accommodations.

Yet, incorporating neurodivergent persons into your business is more than simply improving diversity.  According to research, teams that include neurodivergent employees are 30% more productive than those without. Furthermore, Deloitte found organisations that promote inclusive environments are six times more likely to be innovative and agile. So, by recognising and embracing the strengths of neurodivergent employees, companies can create a more inclusive and successful workforce.

Yellow background with yellow figures and one unique white figure, representing the individual differences of neurodiverse persons

Strengths and Challenges of Neurodiversity

Hiring neurodivergent candidates brings distinctive strengths and perspectives to the workplace, fostering a dynamic and innovative environment. While everyone is unique, there are common strengths and challenges associated with neurodiversity, such as:


  • Creative Thinking: Neurodivergent employees often excel at unconventional thinking, such as approaching problems from new perspectives and driving innovative solutions.
  • Attention to Detail: Strong observational skills can be invaluable for data analysis and financial auditing, ensuring high standards and accuracy.
  • Pattern Recognition: Proficiency in recognising patterns and trends can enhance operational processes and efficiency.


  • Communication and Teamwork: Differences in information processing and interpreting social cues can pose challenges for communication and teamwork. However, this can be effectively supported through inclusive training and fostering a culture of understanding.
  • Attention Regulation: Sustaining attention for extended periods can be difficult for some neurodivergent employees; however, this can be supported with structured routines, regular breaks, and task variety.
  • Short-term Working Memory: Neurodivergent employees may struggle to retain verbal information. Providing written instructions, visual aids, and conducting frequent check-ins can offer significant support.

By recognising and supporting these strengths and challenges, employers can create a more inclusive and effective workplace, empowering neurodivergent employees to perform at their best.

Yellow background with blue dumbbells, emphasising the importance of supportive and adaptable onboarding for neurodivergent employees

Creating an Inclusive Onboarding Process

Picture your first day at a new job – a mix of nerves and excitement as you enter a new environment. Now, imagine navigating this experience with an auditory processing disorder or rejection sensitivity, where asking a simple question can cause anxiety. These examples highlight how neurodiverse conditions can impact information retention, social interactions, and psychological safety – all crucial aspects of employee well-being.

To address these challenges and create a welcoming environment, it’s essential to implement an inclusive onboarding process inclusive of neurodivergent candidates. By acknowledging their specific needs and preferences, businesses can foster inclusivity and ensure the success of their entire team. Below, we outline 11 actionable steps to achieve this goal.

1. Provide Clear Information Ahead of the First Day

Email essential information to your new employee before their first day, including details about their role, work environment, and company culture, to alleviate any anxiety. Develop an induction schedule outlining their initial days and arrange meetings in their calendar accordingly. Knowing what to expect can reduce stress significantly.

2. Set Your Employees Up for Success

Before a new employee’s first day, ensure their workspace and IT equipment are ready. If they have requested specific tools or technology to make their role more accessible, ensure these are available in advance.

3. Tailor Communication and Training

In organisations where onboarding is conducted as a group exercise, some neurodiverse employees may need more individual attention. Provide training materials in various formats, such as screengrabs, organisational charts, and videos with subtitles, to cater to different learning preferences.

4. Implement a Buddy System

Pairing your new employee with a buddy can help them acclimate to the company and their role in a safe and supportive way. It also gives them a friendly person to talk to outside of the management structure.

5. Frequent Check-Ins

Scheduling frequent check-ins, particularly when an employee first starts in a role, can help both the manager and the employee find the rhythm of their working relationship. This provides an opportunity to support, identify training needs, and resolve issues early.

6. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

Allow for flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, to accommodate the needs of neurodiverse employees. This flexibility can help reduce stress and increase productivity.

Colorful slinky against a blue background, representing the flexibility needed for onboarding processes for neurodivergent employees

7. Utilise Supportive Technology

Implement supportive technologies like speech-to-text software, screen overlays, ergonomic keyboards, and daily planners to help neurodiverse employees perform their tasks efficiently.

8. Clear Communication Style

Use clear, concise communication, avoiding sarcasm, euphemisms, and implied messages. Provide written follow-ups to verbal instructions and check for understanding to reduce miscommunication.

9. Regular Review Meetings

Conduct regular review meetings to encourage open communication. Discuss any changes to the business or job role clearly and concisely to help reduce anxiety.

10. Encourage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Promote creating and participating in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to support neurodiverse employees. These groups can provide a vital bridge between employees and senior leadership, fostering an inclusive culture.

11. Recognise Individual Preferences

Remember, each neurodivergent person is unique – tailor accommodations and adjustments to individual needs by asking about their preferences and being receptive to feedback.

Bright and colorful clear gems illustrating the value of diversity in onboarding practices for neurodivergent staff

Creating an inclusive onboarding process for neurodivergent employees involves understanding their unique needs and providing tailored support. By fostering an environment that values diversity and promotes inclusion, organisations can harness the strengths of neurodivergent individuals, driving innovation and improving team dynamics.

For more resources on neurodiversity in the workplace, visit Inclusive Employers. They offer a range of materials, including factsheets and guides on various neurodivergent conditions. Embracing neurodiversity not only benefits individuals but can significantly enhance organisational culture and performance.