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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at

Does your organization claim in writing that it values its employees?

There's no way any employer would put in writing something like: "We want to be honest; employees are not a priority."

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Instead, most employers go to great lengths to craft their message about the value of their staff. Some will even create what's known as their employee value proposition (or EVP) that outlines the organization's promise and benefits that it provides to attract and retain talent. Once this is done in writing, employees begin to judge for themselves whether what was said is or will be happening.

Organizations that have their managers talk about their EVP often are not considering one major challenge: On average, 82 per cent of people don't trust what their manager tells them. This gap in trust can fuel a disconnect between what employees have been told and what they perceive to be the truth. In the end, every employee's personal experience defines their reality. Organizations that are successful at gaining employee trust understand that trust is earned through consistent actions.

This microskill promotes to leaders the importance of fact checking with employees on how well the organization is keeping its promises to its staff.

Fact checking

To be an effective fact checker, leaders must take action once they have the facts. For example, if you find a gap in the EVP, do you have a relationship with Human Resources to share what you've discovered? Most managers are concerned about their careers and the risks they're taking when they point out these deficiencies. If this applies to you, develop relationships with the people in charge and determine if they really care, or if they're reluctant to raise some issues. This may shape your approach, decisions and the degree of risk you are prepared to take.

The end goal of fact checking is to engage your employees regularly to get their point of view and perceptions based on their experiences. Many employees will not say anything unless you ask them in a safe and non-threatening way, and that they know you can be trusted. No news is not always good news. This approach is meant to build bridges and trust and to ensure that you are seen as a leader who is committed to serving and supporting a postivie workplace experience for your employees.

Pick your theme and form your open-ended question

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Pick one theme or action the organization has promoted that it does for employees. These promises are often reported through a core values statement or EVP. Then ask your employees what they think, without any qualifiers. Ask an open-ended question like, "How well is the company providing you with opportunities to learn?" Be clear on what you're going to ask and why you are asking.

Fact checking

The fact checking approach is to focus on a theme over a few days and when appropriate to check in with employees regarding what they think. The goal is to get in tune with what employees think and believe to be true, and why. The intention is not to challenge or defend, but to listen. Whatever the employee says can be helpful, whether it's favourable, unfavourable or neutral. This information can inform your actions.

Take results and determine if action is required

Getting the facts through the employee's eyes can provide insight on employee perceptions, both good and bad. This information can guide managers and shape their approach on what specifically they can influence and improve. As well, in some cases it can be the impetus to bring forward key findings for discussion. This model is grounded in a coaching approach. The goal is to keep the focus on celebrating what's working well and to take action to close any gaps.

Managers who consistently engage their employees on their facts and experiences in the workplace are more likely to build trusted relationships and provide evidence that they care about evaluating and monitoring employer promises.

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Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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