A code of conduct is a defined or implied set of required behaviors, responsibilities, and actions within an organization or of members of a professional body. Establishing a code of conduct or code of ethics communicates to customers, employees, shareholders, the community, and peers the values that an organization expects to project through its day-to-day operations. The code of conduct may extend to socially responsible issues and provides guidance to employees on how to act in unusual situations.
- Approaching the development of a code of ethics as a long-term strategy ensures that the organization’s values and expectations are properly communicated.
- When developing a code, include the following:
- Defined responsibility for development of the code of ethics.
- Expectations for outcome of code of ethics. Once the team is established, all members should understand the task and the objective.
- Customer base/customer requirements. Knowledge of the customer base and customer requirements helps determine what is important to communicate as an organization.
- Any professional codes of ethics currently in use. Refer to existing codes, such as professional engineer code of ethics, auditor code of ethics, etc., in the benchmarking phases of development.
- The structure and scope of the code should cover several key areas:
- Peers – responsibility to fellow employees and competitors
- Public – responsibility to community, both globally and locally
- Customers – responsibility to customer base
- Vendors – responsibility to suppliers
- Governing bodies – responsibility to any regulatory or certifying agencies
- Once the code of ethics has been drafted and reviewed by upper management, communicate it to the workforce. Having a code of ethics in place is only a part of the process. The rest of the process involves communicating the code and ensuring understanding both internally and externally.
- Review the effectiveness of implementation after communication has taken place. Assess whether employees understand the code of ethics and what it really means.
- Seek feedback from stakeholders and ensure that they are aware of the organization’s commitment to the key areas identified. Communicating the code provides stakeholders with a sense of the organization’s integrity.
- Capture feedback during the communication process and determine whether revisions are needed.
- Management should approve the code of ethics when required changes have been made.
- Once the code of ethics is developed, it must also be enforced. Create appropriate consequences related to violation of any part of the code and to exemplary demonstration of its values. Include these consequences and rewards in internal communications related to the code.