5 Things You Need to Know About Your Global Code of Conduct
Have your favorite ‘90s sitcoms aged well? If they haven’t, you probably know why. Content we considered acceptable 30 years ago simply may not hold up today – from outdated cultural references to insensitive jokes.
When you know better, you do better.
This is also true with respect to your organization’s code of conduct. The values that your company held to be true five years ago may not reflect your current zeitgeist. That’s why it is so important to create an effective code of conduct that holds up.
But how? I recently presented a 90-minute webinar for the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) on this topic and wanted to share some takeaways. You can sign up for the full webinar below to receive Compliance Certification Board (CCB) CEUs.
How to Create an Effective Code of Conduct
Some of the things that made for good television in the 90’s – relatable story, good writing, memorable, great cast, important life lessons – are some of the things that make for an effective Global Code of Conduct today.
For example, it is not effective to rely on long-worded, outdated Word documents written by your legal team. Today, the most performant codes feature good writing. They are shorter, easier to understand, and encourage interaction and feedback.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself as you look at your existing code:
Is it relatable? Is it tailored to your employees? Does your code clearly communicate any expectations for behavior for everyone at your organization? Does its tone and style reflect your organization’s culture?
Is it understandable? Is it written in plain language? Are your employees easily able to grasp the concepts that you are introducing? Is it searchable? Dynamic? Do you welcome feedback?
Is it memorable? What will your employees remember about the code? Are there key takeaways? Will they consult it beyond their annual required certification? Why would they consult it? For what should they consult it? How frequently do you update it?
Is it data-driven? Does data drive your code’s organization, prioritization, and effectiveness? Are the activities in your code actionable and measurable? Do you know whether anyone is reading your code? And if so, what sections?
Is it supported? Is your code supported from the top, down, ensuring that managers across the company demonstrate consistent leadership styles and meet employee expectations? What are the code’s “back up” documents? How are the messages in the code highlighted and reinforced?
Is it well-communicated? How are you sharing your code with your organization? Your team? What do you communicate about its relevancy and applicability? How frequently do the leaders in your organization mention and rely on your code? Do your suppliers and business partners abide by your code?
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Why Does This Matter?
While it may seem like a lot to consider, understanding how your Global Code of Conduct might impact your organization can help you think through how to build, reshape, and enforce it. Compliance officers grapple with many of the same questions:
- How does your code impact your organizational culture?
- How frequently does it need to be updated?
- How can you use data to inform updates?
- Who is impacted by the training? What do they do? Where do they live?
- Is your Global Code of Conduct rules-based? Values-based?
Training is something we all must do, and what we train on is largely a reflection of what’s in our code – the first impression we share with the world about what we believe matters in our organization.
During the live SCCE webinar, 43% of attendees cited a lack of relatability as the main challenge they are facing with their current code of conduct. At the same time, they pointed to relatability as being one of the most important elements of a successful code.
What’s the best way to address this gap as you’re looking at your own code? Think about your answers to the following questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What is your objective?
- What hasn’t worked before?
- What are your risks?
- How will you measure effectiveness?
Your responses will impact how you communicate your code, and to whom. They will influence the tone of the document, the topics you cover, how often you make updates, and how you conduct necessary training.
Five Things You Need to Know to Develop an Effective Code
1. YOUR AUDIENCE
Is your code meant to be employee-facing or regulator facing? Is it meant to reassure investors or empower your team? Is it rules-based or values-based? It is up to you to decide what you need people to take away from it, who those people are, and to think about what this says about your organization.
2. YOUR OBJECTIVE
Serving as a central reference point for all employees and stakeholders, your organization’s global code of conduct ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to making decisions in your workplace. It helps employees from diverse backgrounds work more effectively across geographic and cultural boundaries. Is that what you are working towards, or have you created a code of conduct to fulfill a legal requirement?
3. WHAT’S NOT WORKING
Does your code of conduct provide employees with the opportunity to provide feedback? Are they looking at it? Do they understand it? Does it resonate with them? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you might want to take another look. Sometimes, noticing what is not working for you is an easy way to figure out what might.
4. YOUR RISKS
You need to complete regular assessments to understand any risks your organization is facing. Even if it is an informal risk assessment where you look at similarities across your cases to determine what topics your team might need to brush up on . . . you need to have a starting point, and a risk assessment provides that.
5. THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR CODE
Encourage employees and others who have serious concerns about any aspect of your work to come forward and voice those concerns. Provide them with simple ways to raise those concerns and receive feedback on any action taken. Reassure employees that they will be protected from possible retaliation. Measure risk and improvement. This is how you know if you are making an impact.
An important note: Most companies don’t expect their team to memorize their entire code of conduct. It is meant to serve as a living, breathing resource that reflects your organization’s beliefs and expectations at any given time. Encourage employees to consult it. To ask questions about it. To think about how these risk areas apply to the work that they do.
At the end of the day, the most important thing that you can do to further your code of conduct is to meet learners where they are at. Communicate it in a way that they can understand. And remember: training is a teaching behavior. Learning, on the other hand, is an acquisition of knowledge.
Our goal should always be to learn and evolve. Just like our favorite television shows. What have you been watching lately – does it hold up?
Need assistance with your global code of conduct? We’re happy to help; contact us today.