Using life stages to improve diversity is crucial in engaging your workforce, a notion often overlooked in contemporary human resource management. Traditional views tend to categorize employees into limited stereotypes such as the young and ambitious or the older and family-oriented. However, this simplistic view fails to consider the intricate and deeply personal journey of an individual’s life stages.

Life stages” refer to significant periods in an adult’s life that profoundly shape their worldview and priorities. These are often transformative experiences that lead to a reevaluation of personal and professional goals, influencing their approach towards work and life balance.

Taking The Impact Of Life Stages Seriously

Caroline Waters, the deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), emphasizes the importance of using life stages to improve diversity within the workforce. She critiques the current HR practices that overly rely on general characteristics such as age and religion for employee management. This approach, according to her, is ineffective in fostering true employee engagement and retention.

In large corporations, the tendency to stereotype employees based on age and other superficial traits is a common pitfall. However, expecting HR teams to tailor their approach to each employee is also impractical. The ideal approach lies somewhere in between. It involves recognizing the importance of life stages in enhancing workplace diversity while avoiding overly prescriptive protocols for managing each stage.


Daniel Levinson’s 1978 “Seasons of Life” theory offers a comprehensive framework for understanding the stages of adult development. According to his theory, adult life is characterized by sequential stages, each influenced by pivotal events or decisions that lead into the next phase.

Understanding the First Three Life Stages

Early Adult Transition

The Early Adult Transition stage represents a critical juncture in an individual’s life. This stage signifies the end of adolescence and the onset of adulthood. This period is characterized by significant life choices. Choices that set the foundation for future endeavours and personal development. Individuals in this stage are often confronted with decisions that shape their career path, dictating the trajectory of their professional lives. Choices made during this period can have long-lasting implications. These choices can influence job satisfaction, career advancement, and even overall life satisfaction.

Moreover, this stage is pivotal in the formation and evolution of personal relationships. Decisions about romantic partnerships, friendships, and social networks are made, impacting emotional well-being and social support systems. Furthermore, this is a time when individuals often contemplate their independence, making choices about living arrangements, financial autonomy, and personal responsibility. These decisions collectively mark a significant transition from dependency to self-sufficiency, setting the stage for the next phases of life.

Entering the Adult World

Entering the Adult World is a phase where individuals start to solidify their place in society through more definitive life choices. It’s a period marked by a deeper exploration and commitment to specific career paths. The choices made during this stage often reflect an individual’s long-term professional aspirations and are crucial in defining their future career trajectory. It’s a time for establishing a professional identity, building a career network, and laying the groundwork for future advancements.

Beyond professional life, this stage also involves making significant choices regarding personal values and lifestyle. Individuals begin to solidify their belief systems, ethical viewpoints, and personal philosophies, which in turn shape their interactions with the world around them. Choices regarding lifestyle—such as where to live, what hobbies to pursue, and what social causes to support—become more pronounced, reflecting a deeper understanding of self and one’s role in the broader community. This stage is instrumental in shaping the adult persona, influencing both personal and professional relationships.

Early Transitions

The Early Transitions stage is characterized by its variability and the profound impact of major life events. This period can be a time of significant upheaval and change, as individuals navigate pivotal moments like marriage, parenthood, or other critical life events. The decision to marry or enter into a long-term partnership, for example, can redefine personal priorities and necessitate a reevaluation of work-life balance. The role of a spouse or partner often brings new dimensions to an individual’s life, including shared responsibilities and collaborative decision-making.

Parenthood, another common event in this stage, introduces a new set of challenges and rewards. The responsibilities of raising children can lead to shifts in career focus, necessitate changes in work schedules, and prompt a reevaluation of financial priorities. Similarly, other major life events, such as caring for ageing parents or experiencing significant health issues, can also impact one’s approach to work and life. These transitions require a level of adaptability and resilience, as individuals balance their evolving personal responsibilities with their professional aspirations.

Considering these stages is essential for implementing diversity-enhancing strategies within an organization.


A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) highlights the correlation between age and work priorities. Younger employees often value trust, career progression, and autonomy, while older employees may prioritize work-life balance. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these are general trends, and individual experiences can differ significantly.

Challenging Stereotypes Through Diverse Scenarios

Commonalities Beyond Religion

The stereotype that people of similar age and religion will have more in common is often disproven in the workplace. Consider a young Jewish father and a middle-aged Muslim father; their shared experiences in parenthood can create a stronger bond than their religious or age differences might suggest. Both are likely navigating the challenges of balancing work with family life, dealing with similar issues such as childcare, education, and the emotional well-being of their children. This shared journey can foster a deep understanding and camaraderie, transcending the typical barriers of age and religion. These commonalities highlight the importance of looking beyond surface-level attributes when considering employee relationships and dynamics in the workplace. By recognizing these deeper connections, organizations can foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Young Professionals Seeking Stability

Contrary to popular belief, not all young professionals are primarily focused on rapid career progression and personal development opportunities. Many, especially those who have made significant early life commitments like marriage, prioritize job stability over career advancement. This preference stems from a desire for a secure and predictable work environment that supports their personal life choices and responsibilities. For these individuals, the allure of a stable job with predictable hours and a reliable income can outweigh the uncertainty and demands of roles offering rapid advancement. Understanding this preference is crucial for employers, as it challenges the stereotype of the ambitious, constantly career-climbing young professional. Recognizing and accommodating these needs can lead to higher job satisfaction and retention among young employees who value stability.

Older Employees Seeking Career Progression

The notion that older employees primarily seek stability and are less inclined towards career progression is an outdated stereotype. Many individuals in this demographic, particularly those who may have prioritized nurturing roles such as parenting or caregiving in their younger years, find themselves eager to pursue career advancement during mid-life transitions. This desire can stem from a multitude of reasons, such as a newfound personal ambition, the need for a change, or the realization of long-held professional aspirations. These individuals bring a wealth of experience and a unique perspective to their roles, which can be invaluable in leadership positions. Recognizing and supporting the career aspirations of older employees can not only enhance workplace diversity but also bring fresh ideas and approaches to an organization.

Utilising Employee Networks to Address Life-Stage Challenges

Harnessing Natural Group Dynamics

In professional settings, employees naturally form groups based on similar life stages, experiences, and challenges. These groupings, often facilitated through digital and social platforms, create organic networks within the organization. By recognizing and harnessing these networks, organizations can tap into a powerful tool for employee engagement and problem-solving.

Understanding and Leveraging Informal Networks

Organizations can actively identify and understand these informal networks by observing the social dynamics within the workplace. These networks often revolve around shared experiences such as parenting, caring for older family members, or navigating early career challenges. By acknowledging these groups, companies can create targeted initiatives and support systems that directly address the unique issues faced by employees at different life stages.

Employee Networks as a Platform for Discussion

Once identified, these networks can serve as platforms for open discussion and feedback. Organizations can encourage employees to share their experiences and challenges related to their specific life stages. This can be facilitated through regular meetings, online forums, or social events, providing a space for employees to connect, share advice, and offer support to one another.

Integrating Networks into Organizational Strategy

Integrating these networks into the broader organizational strategy can be highly beneficial. For example, a network of new parents might provide insights into the need for flexible working arrangements or childcare support. Similarly, a group of employees nearing retirement might highlight the need for retirement planning services or phased retirement options. By listening to these networks, organizations can tailor their policies and benefits to better meet the needs of their workforce.

Fostering Inclusivity and Support

Ultimately, employee networks based on life stages can foster a culture of inclusivity and support. They provide a sense of belonging and understanding among employees who are navigating similar life events. For the organization, these networks offer valuable insights into the diverse needs of their workforce, allowing them to respond effectively and compassionately to the various life stages of their employees.

Enhancing Corporate Culture By Using Life Stages To Improve Diversity

Embracing a Data-Driven Human Resources Approach

The key to shaping a corporate culture by using life stages to improve diversity lies in adopting a data-driven approach to human resources. This method, inspired by the innovative “people operations” model used by companies like Google, involves gathering and analyzing data to gain deeper insights into what truly motivates and satisfies employees. Traditional employee surveys often skim the surface, failing to capture the complex and varied aspects of work that are important to individuals at different stages of their lives. To truly understand and cater to a diverse workforce, organizations need to move beyond conventional methods.

Initiating Nuanced Dialogues

Organizations should aim to initiate more nuanced and comprehensive dialogues with their employees. This could involve conducting in-depth interviews, focus groups, or anonymous feedback mechanisms that allow employees to share their perspectives on work-life balance, career aspirations, and workplace challenges specific to their life stage. Such conversations can reveal hidden insights about what different groups within the workforce value and need, leading to more effective and personalized policy-making.

Leveraging Social Media and Team Assessments

Social media and team assessments are invaluable tools for understanding and shaping corporate culture. These platforms can provide real-time insights into employee sentiments, preferences, and the challenges they face. By actively monitoring and engaging with employees on social media, organizations can stay attuned to the pulse of their workforce. Team assessments, on the other hand, can help identify areas where life-stage-specific interventions or support systems are needed. They can also highlight successful practices and areas using life stages to improve diversity.

Responding to Unique Needs and Preferences

The ultimate goal is to use these insights to create a workplace that is responsive to the unique needs and preferences of a diverse workforce. This might include flexible working arrangements for parents, targeted professional development for early-career employees, or wellness programs that address the needs of older workers. By aligning corporate policies and culture with the diverse life stages of their employees, organizations can create an inclusive environment where every individual feels valued and supported, leading to enhanced employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Building a Comprehensive Diversity Strategy

In summary, understanding and influencing corporate culture through the lens of life stages requires a comprehensive strategy. This strategy should combine data analysis, open communication, and the use of modern tools to gather employee feedback. By doing so, organizations can build a workplace culture that acknowledges diversity.  Also, it can celebrate the diversity of its workforce.  Ultimately leading to a more harmonious, productive, and innovative working environment.

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Hugh is the CEO of Thymometrics, a supplier of employee engagement surveys. He has over 34 years’ experience in IT in various roles, with a patent relating to Virtual Worlds, and he holds an MA in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge.