Business leaders need to overcome their hidden biases to be more
TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2013 /CNW/ - Savvy business leaders know that having
diverse teams is a competitive advantage in today's fast-evolving,
increasingly global environment. But according to a new report by EY
and RBC even leaders with the best intentions may be unconsciously
stifling diversity in their organizations.
Research on hidden bias reveals that unconscious preferences are common
- creating barriers, limiting creativity and the quality of
relationships we have with those around us. However, by learning to
recognize and manage bias, leaders can work towards mitigating its
impact and maximizing the potential of our organizations.
These biases can range from obvious physical characteristics like
gender, race, ethnicity and age, to more subtle ones like personality
and experiences. Bias can also exist in a positive sense: we may favour
our family, community, and people with whom we share characteristics or
"We believe it's important for us to explore this complex and sometimes
sensitive topic," explains Zabeen Hirji, Chief Human Resources Officer,
RBC. "While many companies have made great strides in advancing
diversity and inclusion in the workplace, there has been a lag in
progress in some areas, such as the advancement of women and minorities
in leadership roles and boardrooms. Unconscious biases should be
considered as a possible underlying reason for this."
Outsmarting our brains: Overcoming hidden biases to harness diversity's
true potential notes that in the workplace, problems arise when we let our biases
affect or shape the decisions we make in and on behalf of our
organizations. Whether it's an unconscious aversion to one group or
preference for another, hidden biases can affect everything from hiring
and promotion, to team and project assignments, to openness to new
sources of ideas and innovative solutions.
"As a leader, it's important to turn around and see who's following
you," says Fiona Macfarlane, Chief Inclusiveness Officer and Managing
Partner, British Columbia, EY. "Is it your intent to have the people
following you all look and behave just like you? That is simply not
representative of our highly diverse society."
The good news? As influential as hidden biases can be, it's possible to
The report suggests some of the following questions for leaders to ask
themselves to help identify unintentional biases:
Who do I take to important client or cross-team meetings?
Who do I encourage to lead or speak out at meetings? Am I creating
opportunities for those less extroverted to demonstrate their
capabilities equally to clients or other colleagues?
Do I typically hire the same type of person, or personality type?
When I say a candidate is not the right "fit", what do I mean?
The research shows that leaders who identify and confront their hidden
biases are better at managing multiple viewpoints and perspectives,
improving connections with clients and delivering bottom-line results.
And while it may not be easy, it's important for leaders to raise their
awareness, challenge their thinking and develop truly inclusive
leadership behaviours in order to set the course for others and drive
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory
services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust
and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over.
We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to
all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in
building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for
For more information, please visit ey.com/ca. Follow us on Twitter @EYCanada.
EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the
member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a
separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company
limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more
information about our organization, please visit ey.com.
Royal Bank of Canada (RY on TSX and NYSE) is Canada's largest bank as
measured by assets and market capitalization, and is among the largest
banks in the world, based on market capitalization. We are one of North
America's leading diversified financial services companies, and provide
personal and commercial banking, wealth management services, insurance,
and investor services and wholesale banking on a global basis. We
employ approximately 80,000 full- and part-time employees who serve
more than 15 million personal, business, public sector and
institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 44 other
countries. For more information, please visit rbc.com.
RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations,
sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2012, we contributed
more than $95 million to causes worldwide, including donations and
community investments of more than $64 million and $31 million in
SOURCE: EY (Ernst & Young)
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