How to Create an Inclusive Onboarding Experience

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An inclusive onboarding experience is essential in putting new neurodiverse employees at ease and setting them up for the best possible success. It is also an opportunity to present your organisation as one that values diversity and provides employee support from all backgrounds.

Below is information on several parts of an inclusive onboarding experience.

Tailor onboarding to individual needs

Neurodiverse recruitment, especially, needs a focus on individual needs. Allow for regular breaks and avoid overloading with information. Some may prefer to read relevant information quietly, others may prefer to have such information communicated through discussion with another employee. More importantly, ensure new employees have a chance to disclose any further needs and make sure to be receptive to any feedback they have on how these have been met in the past. Be prepared to be flexible with things such as start and finish times, and how information is delivered.

In organisations where onboarding is conducted as a group exercise, some neurodiverse employees may need more individual attention. Neurodiverse employees may also need certain information in more detailed formats, for example with screengrabs or having members of the team presented as an organisational chart rather than a list of team members. Where training materials include videos or tests, be aware that some individuals may require subtitles or headphones, and extra time to complete tests.

Communicate effectively during onboarding

Communication is essential to set new employees up for success. Uncertainty and new situations can be particularly difficult for people who are neurodiverse, so clear communication, and the opportunity to ask questions is a necessary part of any onboarding process. Make sure that new employees know what to expect from their first few days, including providing maps of the area, if they are expected to travel. It may also be a good idea to provide maps of buildings, and clear instructions for finding amenities. Other key information might include who they will be meeting, a time table of what events will take place, whether meals will be provided or whether other arrangements need to be made. How people prefer this communication might differ, so it is best to ask people whether they would prefer a phone or video call, or written instructions that can be accessed on the go or printed out.

Promote a welcoming culture

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Areas neurodiverse people often struggle with are confidence and self advocacy, therefore it is especially important to inform people you have resources available to them. Neurodiverse individuals can sometimes find it difficult to ask, due to past bad experiences or worries over a lack of understanding for neurodiversity. However, it is important not to assume that one accommodation that has worked previously for one employee should be put in place for a new employee without checking first. Even people with the same diagnosis may have very different difficulties and preferences so it is essential to ask what people might need as part of their onboarding experience.

Part of the initial communication with new employees should begin with a discussion on what accommodations they would prefer, but suggestions of other accommodations that have helped others may be useful to encourage new employees, as well as reassure them that such accommodations have been made in the past. Relationships with line managers is especially important for neurodiverse employees so a priority is to make sure that line managers are aware of neurodiversity, and the struggles that neurodiverse people can have in the workplace.

Where possible, specialist training might be needed to ensure that managers are properly equipped to provide support to neurodiverse employees. Promoting this culture could also include providing new employees with mentors or buddies, especially where line manager resources might be stretched. A company could also suggest they join any employee groups set up to support the neurodiverse community. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be a vital bridge between employees and senior leadership.

Provide resources for new employees

These groups or mentoring can be key to ensuring employees get the resources they need to set up for success. Such resources may be personal, such as more time with line managers to discuss workloads or technological aids, such as screen readers. The importance of line manager support has already been discussed above, however employee groups may help address concerns that employees may not want to take to line managers, or where line managers have been unable to help. Many of the resources and adjustments that can be made with very little expense. It is important also to remember that some new resources may not work immediately, or may need trial and error to find the right fit. Another thing to consider would be ongoing training for neurodiverse employees on a variety of topics.

Celebrate diversity

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Recently the concept of intersectionality in diversity has been a discussion topic. It’s important to be aware that membership of one diversity identity doesn’t mean that an individual can’t be a member of another. This is especially true of neurodiversity. Celebrating all facets of diversity will allow employees to feel their whole self is welcome in the workplace, be it their gender, sexual or racial identity. This will promote a workplace culture that celebrates diversity in general, which will guard against perceptions of any one diversity initiative being perceived as hollow, or opportunistic.

Key takeaways for creating inclusive onboarding

The main takeaways in order to create an inclusive onboarding experience is to first listen to new employees about what needs they have, and explore ways these can be accommodated. Even if another neurodiverse employee has found an adjustment useful in the past that does not mean that a new employee will also find it useful too. Communication is key throughout, starting with listening, and going about communicating in a way that suits the new neurodiverse employee.

It is also important to make sure that the organisation presents a welcoming culture, by celebrating neurodiversity overall and provides resources to employees. Welcoming cultures could be part of ensuring neurodiverse employees have communities to go to within the organisation and line managers who have had proper training in supporting neurodiverse members of staff. Providing resources can help reassure neurodiverse employees that they will be best set up for success with the additional resources they need.


Creating inclusive onboarding for neurodiverse employees involves small changes to the recruitment and onboarding process, of which these should be employee led. By allowing employees to be in control of their own onboarding this will set employees up for success with a sense of ownership of their role within a wider company that values diversity and inclusion.

Blog Author

Beth Parish