By: Jimmy Lin
The code of conduct is one of the single most important documents a company will produce. It outlines the organization’s principles and serves as a behavioral guideline for all employees. It’s meant to guide employees through ethical dilemmas and create a trusting image of the company. Despite its importance, codes of conduct have a reputation for being boring, legal-jargon-filled documents, but they don’t have to be.
If you want your code to truly inspire the right behavior, it must be engaging and promote real interaction. Take your code to that next level by following the tips below.
- Refresh Your Content. An engaging code of conduct should be more than a list of legal mandates or compliance jargon. Instead, organize content by high-level topics or behaviors rather than laws, and be sure that all relevant issues to your business are addressed. Include a message from leadership, an introduction regarding the purpose of the code, employees’ responsibilities under it and the company’s core values and principles. Lastly, be sure to provide information on where employees can access additional resources and who they can go to with any questions or concerns.
- Adopt a Reader-Friendly Tone. As previously mentioned, codes of conduct have traditionally been seen as boring and hard for your average reader to understand. Companies are better off writing their code in plain language that their employees will comprehend and retain. Adopt a tone that complements your organizational culture and employee demographics. Remember, the code is there to help employees make the right ethical decisions, so make sure your language is concise and without any grey areas.
- Go Digital. In today’s technology driven world, a 50-page code of conduct stuffed into a binder will just not cut it. Instead, leverage the power of technology when creating your code of conduct. Not only will going digital appeal to millennials and make your code of conduct possible for employees to access from anywhere, but it also allows for engaging multimedia elements like video, quizzes, games and decision resources. Employees can also easily search for topics in a digital version. Additionally, putting your code online allows you to capture and analyze data, which can help you measure and prove your code’s effectiveness.
- Utilize Design. High-impact, eye-catching designs will dramatically improve usability and retention. Techniques like call-outs boxes that feature high-level information, pull-quotes for added emphasis and company-specific questions and answers will draw employees to key points. Make your code feel unique and true to the company by incorporating the company’s corporate branding standards, such as the organization’s standard colors, fonts, logos, etc., into the design. Keep in mind, this is as much a marketing piece as it is a policy document.
- Incorporate Interactive Activities. As previously mentioned, incorporating interactive activities like games and quizzes into your digital code of conduct allows employees to truly interact with the content and helps bring concepts to life. Requiring users to complete these activities also serves to gauge employees’ understanding of concepts, promote retention and identify areas of the code that may need to be clarified. Blur the lines between your code and training.
- Make it Accessible. What good is having a code of conduct if it’s hard to find? Make sure your employees can access your code of conduct anywhere at any time. Provide an easy-to-find link to your digital code from your corporate intranet. Also, make sure a print-version of your code is easily available to all employees. You may also want to consider providing a mobile/tablet friendly version of the code, especially if you have a very mobile workforce. If your company is international, offer a localized, native language version of the company’s code of conduct that is sensitive to cultural nuances and tailored to reflect country-specific information, legislation and regulations. Lastly, make sure all employees have easy access to ethics and compliance reporting tools and department contact information.
- Actively solicit employee feedback. In order to make your code of conduct engaging and truly effective, you need to solicit feedback from employees. Find out what employees think of your code, what areas are resonating with them, what areas may need clarification and what questions they still have. Remember, a code of conduct is not a one-and-done kind of project. Employees should fully evaluate their code on a consistent basis, at least every two years, so that it reflects employee feedback, changing business environments and regulatory requirements.
Don’t underestimate the impact an engaging code of conduct can have on your company. A truly great code of conduct can reduce employee risks and serve as an informative, ubiquitous guide to the company’s values and principles.
Jimmy Lin is Vice President of Product Management and Corporate Development at The Network. Jimmy leads corporate and product strategies for The Network’s Integrated GRC Solutions. He has over 15 years experience in and around software and technology, from implementing software to analyzing new markets and leading product strategies for organizations like Oversight Systems, Manhattan Associates, UPS Supply Chain Solutions and IP2Biz. Jimmy is a Certified GRC Professional (GRCP).