3 Lessons from a Code of Conduct Launch Bootcamp

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"A good code without a successful launch, can be as ineffective as a poor code."

– Ed Petry, Senior Advisor, NAVEX Global


In the third and final session of a three-week Code of Conduct Bootcamp series, we learned key elements of an influential code of conduct launch. In the 60-minute session, several themes and questions surfaced. I’ll recap here the key lessons we learned from our code expert and bootcamp host, Ed Petry, when it comes to executing an effective code of conduct launch.

A well-crafted code of conduct determines what a company says; a well-executed code launch determines what employees hear.

First, it can not be over emphasized how important the code of conduct launch is to the overall success of the corporate standards and expectations in the code.  A well-crafted code of conduct determines what a company says; a well-executed code launch determines what employees hear.

The code launch is the organization’s opportunity to manage attitudes toward this defining document as well as attitudes toward the organization’s overall commitment to driving a culture of ethics, compliance, integrity and respect. To fully capitalize on your code of conduct launch, there are three key steps you should focus on.

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3 Steps for an Effective Code of Conduct Launch

Though there is a litany of tasks to complete on the way to a successful and seamless code of conduct launch, the three steps below are essential to maximizing the impact of that launch.

1. Engage Leaders & Managers with Assignments & Tailored Messaging

As with any compliance initiative, leadership buy-in and tone from the top is key. What is often missing, however, are tactics that actually drive true participation from leadership and clearly demonstrate their buy in. More and more, it is not simply tone from the top that is important, but participation.

Each manager should understand the code, internalize it and be able to translate its value in ways that resonate with their team and their day-to-day responsibilities

You can cultivate leader and manager participation by assigning them tasks as part of the code of conduct development and rollout process. Should they review the content for style, tone or brand consistency? Should they evaluate to ensure it will resonate with their direct reports or their larger regional location? Whatever the assignment is, there also needs to be follow-up to hold leadership accountable for delivering on their assignments. While this ensures tasks are completed, it also communicates to supervisors that this is an important project and they are key contributors to its delivery.

Read More: My Organization's Code of Conduct Is Good - How Can I Make It Great?

After the launch, leaders and managers should lead the charge of communicating the new code of conduct to their employees. While consistency of communication is key, you do not want to perpetuate canned messages. Each manager should understand the code, internalize it and be able to translate its value in ways that resonate with their team and their day-to-day responsibilities. A value proposition tailored by an employee’s immediate manager is much more impactful than hearing just another pre-scripted corporate talking point.

2. Integrate with an Ethics & Compliance Communication Plan

Tailoring your code of conduct messaging is not only important for managers; tailoring the individual instances and timing of messages for employees is also key.

The way you train and communicate your code to your board of directors should be different than how you communicate it to your senior leaders, employees on the retail floor, your sales team, and every other department or function. This is key to address the disparate day-to-day responsibilities of your employee population, but also to resonate with the different cultures and sub-cultures that exist throughout the organization.

Along with tailoring of messaging, proper timing of messaging is key. While your code of conduct should include specifics about the organizations’ zero tolerance of bribery, that message may be most impactful if heard right before an employee travels overseas. Targeting traveling employees with reminders on trade compliance or best practices for navigating regional or culture differences gives your code context. And context makes the code applicable.

3. Execute a Strategic Code of Conduct Awareness Campaign

One of the key themes heard in the code of conduct bootcamp was that awareness campaigns need to evolve beyond the email. Yes, emails will play a key role, but should not be the entirety of your awareness campaign. Along with emails, organizations are using office posters, brochures, banners, and materials that are dropped at employees’ desk during the code launch. These printed messages should also be replicated in digital engagement point like trailer videos, TV screens around the office, or internal intranet.

Awareness tactics are important, but you can never lose sight of exactly what you are making your people aware of – that your company is committed to doing well by doing good. Often times ethics and compliance is seen as a parallel corporate initiative outside the core business. It is not. As Petry said during the bootcamp, “The more you can build ethics and compliance into the business the better.”  This requires the compliance message to be carried by those outside of the compliance department. And that brings us full circle back to engaging leaders and managers.

While launching your code of conduct might signal the end of the development process, it marks the beginning of the process to embed its standards into your organization. This determines if the code will actually be used, referenced, and woven into the fabric of the organization’s operations.

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