Looking at Total Rewards Through the Lens of Neurodiversity

Looking at Total Rewards Through the Lens of Neurodiversity

Posted on May 10, 2023 0 Comments

Fully supporting neurodivergent people in the workplace is an ongoing journey that will take patience and effort.

The first time I heard the term autism was over 20 years ago. Although it's been a part of my family's story for all these years, my acceptance and journey to understand has been a long, denial-filled and winding one. Information on symptoms, coping mechanisms, explanation of brain function and development was not widely available then, and certainly not the topic of conversation around the dinner table.

So, when my youngest sister, who joined our family through adoption when I was almost a teenager, was diagnosed with “Asperger’s” syndrome, my response was not one of understanding or compassion but of frustration and resentment. The autism community would later reject the term Asperger’s due to the problematic doctor the condition was named after, and it would evolve and later become a point on what is now referred to as "the spectrum." Today, information is more readily available and conversation is more open. While there is still misunderstanding and intolerance around autism or the spectrum of neurodiversity as a whole, there is also a plethora of information available now. From parent support groups to social media creators sharing their personal experiences with the world, chances are you know, love, work with or maybe just follow someone on the spectrum.  

As a Total Rewards leader, I’ve looked at neurodiversity through many lenses. “Do our benefit programs support employees and their families as they deal with doctor appointments, testing and therapy?” “Does our culture invite different perspectives into the conversation?” “Do we celebrate and reward performance through opportunity and advancement only for people who think and operate the way we do?” “Do our flexible work arrangements and time off programs support folks who need extra time to recharge?” Sometimes the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Other times there is more to unpack, to dig into and to remove the barriers.

Regardless, it’s a journey without a specific destination. There is no “one perfect way” to support neurodiverse people in the workplace (or at home), just like there is no “one perfect way” to parent. The journey is about patience and effort. Are you willing to view success as incremental progress instead of a check box of completion? Akin to conversations about race or gender, ethnicity or orientation, the goal is focused on reducing the “otherness” and providing educating and support.

As a people leader, as a mother of a neurodivergent kiddo, as a grown woman actively seeking to understand why the information she’s learning about the way her son’s brain works feels so familiar and his coping strategies feel so helpful, this isn’t just a benefits conversation. It’s an acceptance conversation. Are you willing to flex your definition of success to be more about the journey and less about the destination?

Laura Gallerane

Laura is a dynamic total rewards leader with a passion for helping answer the ever-evolving question asked by candidates and employees alike: "What's in it for me?" Which, in this multigenerational landscape, is a complex challenge. She is a mother to two amazing kiddos, wife of a hard working small business owner, a Progress People Team leader and a travel enthusiast adventuring her way through vacation days in their family's RV.


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