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Code of Conduct Best Practices

Make your code of conduct relevant by writing it in a way that reflects your company’s culture and challenges.

Posted by Joe Gerard on March 17th, 2011

A code of conduct says a lot about a company. Every company’s code of conduct should be written in a way that reflects the company’s culture, business practices and day-to-day operations and challenges. A well written code of conduct is the cornerstone of an effective ethics and compliance program – but only if your employees understand it. To increase employee adoption of the code, write with them in mind. Use examples they can relate to, answer their questions and use language they understand. Just because a code deals with a lot of laws and regulations doesn’t mean a code of conduct has to be filled with legal jargon.

Here are some additional tips to take into consideration when putting together a code of conduct for your company:

1. Develop Two Codes

A code of conduct needs to be relevant to its audience. To address this issue, one thing I’ve noticed a lot of companies have done lately is write two codes of conduct – one for employees and another for executives. Some might question why the time was put into creating a second code of conduct for a smaller group of employees, but if you ask me, it’s a wise investment.

Executives have a lot of power and influence over the organization. Executives need to be held to the same standards as all other employees, however, they have additional responsibilities that other employees don’t. Therefore, it’s important to put together a second code that’s reflective of the different challenges management and executives face.

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2. FAQs

FAQs help clarify topics outlined in the code of conduct. An FAQ section is great for educating employees, but also for encouraging them to ask questions – ultimately proving that they’ve read the code of conduct. Outdoor outfitter, Helly Hansen, publishes a code of conduct FAQ to enhance the company’s code of conduct. Encourage employees to ask questions about the code of conduct and revise the FAQ section on a regular basis to answer their questions. Remember: If one person has a question about something, chances, are, someone else does too.

3. Goals

A code of conduct should have goals. Whether you choose to publish these goals and educate your employees on them is up to you, but setting goals will help you judge whether or not your code is doing its job. Some goals might take more time to accomplish, so set milestones to achieve along the way. Setting goals and monitoring the impact of your code of conduct will allow you to evaluate the workplace on a regular basis and allow you to make amendments to the code based on industry, local and internal changes.

4. Related Policies

The code of conduct incorporates a wide range of topics and issues that are also raised and discussed in other workplace policies. For example, a company might put together individual policies pertaining to information security, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowers, etc. Rather than regurgitating the information over again in the code of conduct, include a list of related policies at the end of each section.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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