Code of Conduct: Your Corporate Constitution

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You code is a defining document, not a formality to be “marked as read.”

How important is your company’s code of conduct? We liken it to a corporate constitution—your highest-level policy, from which all of your other policies, procedures and rules derive, and without which you cannot expect to instill or maintain effective corporate governance.

And just as a constitution provides the framework for civil society, your code of conduct provides the framework for your corporate culture. It tells your employees what behavior is expected of them. It describes the principles that define your corporate culture and tells your stakeholders—internal and external alike—what you stand for and aspire to.

You code is a defining document, not a formality to be “marked as read.” So it is critical you present your code of conduct in a way that reinforces your company’s values, not detracts from it. Progressive companies understand this and are investing in their employees by investing in their code to ensure that it represents the integrity, respect and accountability expected of their employees.

Along with instilling value, it is essential that your code is current, instructive and intuitive to your employees. The corporate culture you are trying to foster can easily be diminished if your code does not resonate with employees or fit into the ways they consume information.

3 Ways to Create a Progressive Code of Conduct

1. Make It Current

The world of compliance is changing faster than ever before, and your code of conduct has to change with it. If your code was last updated in 2013, would it address emerging social issues like discrimination based on gender identity? Maybe not. But given the discourse in our society today, your employees might want to know where you stand on that question, among many others.

2. Make it Compelling

Building your code around a unique, memorable theme – such as a corporate culture rally cry – can help draw a connection between your organization’s high-level principles and its everyday expectations. Compelling codes of conduct often include lists of responsibilities for both employees and managers, emphasizing that managers are accountable to set the tone for an ethical workplace. And the incorporation of affirmations such as “we” statements help your message talk with the reader rather than at them.

3. Make it Digital

Progressive codes use visuals and iconography to bring concepts to life, far beyond just text on a page. The next step to enhancing your code is making it digital. Designing your Code of Conduct as an interactive document makes it is easily navigable and searchable for readers. Innovative companies also use comprehension aids such as “Stay on Track” or “Did You Know” call-outs that keep digital readers moving through the code with eye-catching, clickable engagements.

While each of these codes of conduct approaches contain elements worth emulating, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Ultimately an organization’s code must align with its values and the realities of its business. Best practices for codes of conduct and resources designed to strengthen your code are great places to start evaluating your approach. 

Big picture, it’s vital for all organizations to take a fresh approach, revisit their codes regularly and ensure that they cover the matters, issues and scenarios your stakeholders care about or are likely to experience. The codes should clearly reflect these matters in language that speaks across learning styles, job functions and generations as well as be applicable and accessible to all employees worldwide. 


Your code of conduct is the most powerful policy document your organization will produce. Request a consultation with our Advisory Services Team to ensure your code is as instructive, applicable and meaningful as it can be. 


What do you have to say? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join a discussion group on Compliance Next.

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