This blog post originally appeared in the Center for International Private Enterprise’s (CIPE) Business of Integrity blog.
Many employees have the attitude that their organization’s code of conduct is merely a policy, when in reality the code should serve as the foundation of any given organization, capturing its unique values, ethics, and culture. A code of conduct should be more than just a document — it should be an experience that inspires employees to adhere to a code while also respecting the reality of workforce trends.
The best codes align with an organization’s message and are an authentic expression of the workplace’s culture. As a result, codes should incorporate the organization’s mission and values throughout the document in order to develop a message that is meaningful to employees. Additionally, a code developed with the full backing of key constituents (the board, senior leadership, global partners, etc.) will resonate strongly among employees. A high-impact message or letter from the CEO/leader can go a long way in inspiring a workforce to embrace and actively engage with a code of conduct or ethics.
To develop an effective code, it is important to make the message easy to follow by using clear, concise language. The code should be written in a way that employees at every level can understand, and it is best to define key terms in order to prevent any misunderstanding. Often codes become too detailed and just reiterate company policies. The most effective codes are easy to scan and explain expected behavior. Comprehension aids (call-out boxes, graphics, iconography, etc.) can help make codes easier to read and are useful to incorporate.
A strong code of conduct not only communicates the emphasis an organization places on ethical behavior; it brings the values of the organization to life by showing how these values apply to specific situations. A code should not just be a document that employees are expected to follow blindly, but an experience that fosters an environment of compliance and ethics.
The Business of Integrity blog covers CIPE’s anti-corruption programming, shares the perspectives of CIPE’s partners around the world, and discusses how the private sector can take a constructive role in combatting corruption. Read more here.