Learn how to attract, hire and support a neurodiverse workforce – and grow your business beyond the typical spectrum.

A diverse and inclusive workplace is not only fair; it’s a precursor to business success. With a richness of perspectives, ideas, and thinking styles, businesses can harness the creativity needed to solve problems and seize market opportunities.

For the past few years, organisations have focused on gender and racial inclusion, with positive results. According to McKinsey, organisations that commit to gender and racial diversity are 39% more likely to outperform their peers. Another form of inclusion that leaders are increasingly paying attention to is embracing neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity refers to the range of ways that a person’s brain works and encompasses conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These conditions can present challenges – according to City and Guilds, 40% of neurodivergent employees feel the impact of their condition most days at work. At the same time, supporting this workforce significantly benefits organisations, as it fosters innovation, loyalty and productivity.

To help our community better understand these challenges and opportunities, we recently ran a neurodiversity masterclass at Barclay Simpson. During the session, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) consultant, Adam Tobias, who himself lives with ADHD and ASD, provided valuable advice on the simple adjustments leaders can make to create more inclusive workplaces.

Based on those lessons, here are three key insights to help you unlock the potential of a neurodiverse workforce:

1. Rethink your recruitment processes

The recruitment process is the first hurdle between your business and a diverse workforce.

It has the potential to either give a positive first impression or exclude exceptional talent right off the bat. So be aware of your processes and whether they may unintentionally disadvantage neurodivergent prospects.

For example, identify what skills you genuinely need when advertising jobs instead of listing every ‘nice to have’ quality that springs to mind. Evidence suggests that neurodivergent candidates are less likely to apply for a role if they encounter a long list of requirements and don’t fulfil most of them. Simply put, the more requirements you add to your job spec, the less diverse your talent pool will be.

Once you determine the skills required for the role, adapt your selection process accordingly. If the role doesn’t need a high level of interpersonal skills, for example, consider reviewing the candidate’s portfolio or designing a project for them to complete rather than focusing solely on high-pressure interviews and timed tests.

You can also reduce anxieties by giving your candidates some predictability. Clearly communicate your entire recruitment process in advance so your applicants understand what to expect from each step, how you will assess them, and your timelines. This can be particularly helpful for candidates on the autism spectrum, and it’s good practice in all cases.

Finally, give your interviewers additional training. Educate them on unconscious biases that may impair their decisions and the adjustments they can make for a more comfortable experience.

Encouraging them to focus on candidates’ strengths rather than weaknesses during interviews helps them avoid using ‘trick’ questions, which can quickly derail an otherwise successful interview. This awareness and flexibility help level the playing field while allowing candidates to showcase their unique problem-solving skills and approach to work.

‘We should recognise that interviewing can be a bad way to assess talent. It focuses too much on how people present themselves, sometimes with no bearing on how they will perform in future.’  Adam Tobias

2. Build a neuroinclusive work culture

To retain and nurture a neurodiverse workforce, you need an inclusive work culture where neurodivergent employees feel comfortable sharing their needs.

Although studies estimate that around 15% of the UK population is neurodivergent, diagnosis remains a complex and lengthy process that can be difficult to access. Even when people have been diagnosed, many don’t disclose their conditions, whether for fear of prejudice or a lack of faith that employers will make necessary adjustments.

According to a recent report by the UK government, The Buckland Review of Autism Employment, a fully inclusive working culture reduces the need for such disclosure. It also increases productivity for everyone, whether neurodivergent or neurotypical.

The first step to building an inclusive culture is to understand and accept neurodiversity. You can start by educating your employees on the subject to raise awareness, dispel myths, and create a more informed and empathetic workforce. Also, take the opportunity to point people towards the policies and resources available to support neurodivergent colleagues.

Next, go beyond acceptance and celebrate neurodiversity. Recognise and, if appropriate, showcase the contributions and unique perspectives of neurodivergent colleagues. You can, for example, invite senior neurodivergent leaders to share their stories about navigating their careers with their conditions. This activity can go a long way in building momentum, creating a sense of belonging and reinforcing the organisation’s commitment to inclusion.

‘Small adjustments can make a huge difference. Just ask neurodivergent people what they need, and be open to flexibility.’  Adam Tobias

3. Adjust the workplace with flexibility, individuality and technology

Small changes can make your work environment significantly more comfortable for neurodivergent employees, and the key here is flexibility.

The UK Equality Act 2010 guarantees the right of some workers to request reasonable adjustments so they are not at a disadvantage. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as they are unique to the needs and preferences of each person. Still, you can offer some standard practices, policies and options.

Whether you love or hate them, flexible working policies are at the top of the list. Arrangements such as flexible hours, remote working, and quiet zones in the office can help people avoid environments and situations that are overwhelming or distracting. You can also promote regular breaks and movement throughout the day for those who prefer to perform in short bursts of activity. Even simple practices, such as optional attendance at office events, can be helpful for neurodivergent employees.

Another consideration is to provide regular, structured performance appraisals. According to the Buckland Review, this can significantly improve the work experience of autistic workers. This way, they can continuously assess their needs, give and receive feedback, and more easily work towards their career goals. These check-ups can also help managers identify ways to adjust future tasks and deadlines to accommodate individual needs and learning styles.

From a broader perspective, you can invest in assistive technologies to help neurodivergent individuals with specific challenges. For example, text-to-speech tools can help employees with dyslexia process content faster, and noise-cancelling headphones can reduce sensory overload for autistic staff. You can also suggest tools you already offer, such as the calendar function on the company’s computers, for employees to schedule and remind themselves to take regular breaks.

Ultimately, embracing neurodiversity is not just a social responsibility or a tick-box exercise; it’s a strategy for success. By building an inclusive culture, improving recruitment processes and adapting your workplace with simple changes, you’ll hire and retain top talent that propels your business forward. The future is neuroinclusive – is your business ready?


At Barclay Simpson, we provide recruitment services in cybersecurity, technology, and governance. We help businesses and professionals build inclusive and high-performing workplaces, one role at a time. Learn more about our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.