Having a code of conduct, particularly in the climate we’re in right now is so important. More than ever before there is zero tolerance for anything that could be perceived as unethical or inappropriate in the workplace. Many companies, and in particular Silicon Valley companies are starting to feel the heat from their free-for-all corporate environments they’ve maintained for so long.
Having a code of conduct is essential. It’s a way to maintain control over employee behavior just as expense software is for controlling T&E costs, or having cybersecurity best practices in place is.
Having a code of conduct can not only create a safe and comfortable internal work environment, but it’s also important externally. It can show what your values are as a corporation, and that’s something many people want to see out of the companies they do business with.
A code of conduct outlines more than just how employees should and shouldn’t behave. It is a reference point for employees. It helps them make decisions in a way that’s compliant and ethically-guided. It also highlights the values of the organization and provides benchmarks to measure success within the company.
So, how should modern companies create or recreate a code of conduct?
Start By Defining Your Organizational Values
As was touched on, a code of conduct is really a written outline of your organizational values, so start here when it comes to writing. You want to think about what your true values are, and how those values align with challenges and also objectives.
Once you can clearly define organization values, it becomes much easier to write the rest of the code of conduct.
After you have defined organizational values, you can start thinking about the other must-haves that need to be integrated. For example, include workplace examples of specific situations where guidelines would apply. Include disciplinary actions that will be taken if there is a violation of the code as well.
Write For and To Employees
Just because you’re basing your code of conduct on company values doesn’t mean it has to be written in a way that’s overly flowery or tries too hard. You don’t want to seem like you have an overly grandiose idea of what your organization is or who your employees are.
You want your code of conduct to be simple, concise and relatable. It’s possible to say a lot without going too far in the wording.
Write your code of conduct as if you’re speaking directly to your employees, not as if you’re writing a piece of literature. If your writing style comes off as trying too hard, employees are likely to scoff at it, and they’re less likely to follow it.
Keep the long wording and phrases out of the code of conduct, as well as the legal terms. That will all just distance employees from the code. It needs to be easy to read, easy to understand and relatable to the experience employees are having in the workplace day-to-day.
Who To Involve During Development
Whether you’re starting from scratch in the creation of a code of conduct, or you’re revamping what you already have, you may wonder who should be involved in the development process. Of course, your executive team is going to play a key role, but others should be involved as well.
For example, think about getting employees from different departments to be involved during the development of the code. They’ll all have unique experiences, priorities and even concerns. Also, make sure the Human Resources department is represented during the development process.
The more stakeholders are involved in the creation of a code of conduct, the more likely they are to sell it to their teams and get more broad buy-in, so the more likely it is that employees will be compliant.
Finally, it’s often recommended that you review and perhaps tweak your code of conduct on an annual basis. Every time there is a chance to the code, it needs to be widely disseminated to employees. In many ways, this should be looked at as a marketing campaign. You want employees to know what the code of conduct is, how it applies to them and what the penalties and repercussions are for not following it.
If you create but don’t disseminate and market it to employees, they’re going to feel like it’s not important. Make sure it’s readily available and it’s promoted as a core focus of your business, internally and externally.