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Building a Foolproof ‘Code of Conduct’ Training Program

August 4, 2022

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Your business is more than employees and supervisors. It’s an ecosystem that works towards a common goal.

But what is that goal? What are your values? How are your employees given the tools to handle issues in the workplace?

Enter: the code of conduct.

A code of conduct is made up of the rules and expectations that keep your workplace humming. It’s usually included in an employee handbook or reviewed during onboarding to make sure new employees understand what’s expected of them.

So how do you conduct a code of conduct training program, or at least one that is actually effective?

If your answer was a three-hour lecture on ethics, you might want to go back to the drawing board. Code of conduct training often gets a bad reputation because of how boring and ineffective it can be.

The problem? Employees aren’t engaged in what they are learning, but leaders believe they are.

Let’s try to fix that.

  • How to create an effective code of conduct training program.
  • How to make code of conduct information accessible.

What should I include in my code of conduct training program?

Mission statement and core values.

A mission statement summarizes your organization’s core values and goals. It’s a reminder of why your employees are doing the work they’re doing.

Providing your mission statement at the start of training sets the tone for what lies ahead and establishes a common purpose.

Sharing your values encourages employees to act with integrity, respect, and inclusion. These might include:

  • Ethical standards.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR).
  • Employee rights.
  • Diversity and inclusion.
A toddler lifting a cap that says "Respect" off his head.

Having strong organizational values is a great first step to creating an ethical workplace. Aligning your organizational values with your employees' own values creates a value-based organization.

A value-based organization has many benefits, including increased productivity, employee empowerment, and workplace harmony.

Employee behavior expectations.

You have your values, but how can employees act on them?

There should be a set of expected behaviors that employees can model. You want a smooth operation and a positive work culture, and that starts with how employees treat each other.

Here, you can include behaviors that are encouraged in the workplace and ones that violate the code of conduct.

Make sure they’re clear and easy to follow. These are expectations you don’t want employees to misunderstand.

There are many guidelines you may offer with regard to behavior, but here are some important ones to address:

  • Professionalism standards.
  • Discrimination and harassment policies.
  • Use of company property.
  • Use of social media. 
  • Rules around communication.

If inclusivity and respect are part of your core values, it’d be counterproductive to skim over high-priority topics like anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

Consider giving these policies their own section so that they’re allotted the time they deserve.

Internal practices.

We all remember syllabus day, right?

Internal practices are the day-to-day expectations you’ve set for your employees Rather than behavior, which takes more time to cover, internal practices are simple.

A man saying, "There are certain rules one must abide by."

Here, you cover the company’s policies on things like:

  • Dress code.
  • Attendance.
  • Punctuality.
  • Legal compliance.
  • Inclement weather.
  • Use of phone/social media.
  • Leave-of-absence.

Employees should be able to find these policies easily within your knowledge base.

These are common topics employees want addressed, and having the answers accessible to everyone cuts out confusion and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

In this section, you might also want to include your org chart. Delegation is a key part of having flow in your workplace and keeping communication consistent. Informing employees who they report to will save you a lot of organizational chaos.

External practices.

Your employees aren’t only going to be working within your organization, especially if they’re client-facing. External practices are the expectations around dealing with outside parties.

They’ll cover things like ethical business practices, but also, what not to share with those outside your business.

In this section, you might address:

  • Customer/client communication.
  • Privacy and confidentiality.
  • Conflicts of interest.

Disciplinary and reporting processes.

You should outline a disciplinary process for when the code of conduct is violated. And demonstrate your dedication to taking your code of conduct seriously without making exceptions based on seniority or position.

You might detail different levels of action and the order in which they are taken.

Your disciplinary structure might look something like this:

  1. Verbal warning.
  2. Written reprimand.
  3. Suspension.
  4. Termination.

On the other hand, you should also have clear reporting procedures for employees.

You’d want to feel comfortable and equipped to report conduct issues, right?

Give your employees reporting options. Not everyone is comfortable with reporting others, especially when it involves those in positions of power.

But that means that violations of the code of conduct can go unchecked. Making the options clear empowers everyone to consider reporting unethical behavior that violates your mission statement.

Employees should know:

  • How to report someone.
  • Who they should report to.
  • If reports are kept anonymous.
  • What happens after they report.
  • How their report will be followed-up on.

Does “good” code of conduct training actually exist?

Yes! But you’ll need to get creative.

Code of conduct training programs are stale when their only purpose is to inform. You’re trying to establish and maintain a company culture — and one that’s centered around accountability.

Plus, you avoid risk when your employees understand your policies.

So how can you make your code of conduct training “good?”

Create engaging content that people will actually read.

Training should be used to increase access to information, not restrict it. The drier your training, the more barriers you add to employee engagement.

Think about it: No one sits down and reads an instruction manual in their free time.

When you follow the standards of good content writing, you’re showing your employees that you put in the effort to help them succeed. Make the information relevant, clear, and interesting.

Some standards of good writing include:

  • Relevant information.
  • Logical organization.
  • Precise word choice.
  • Unique voice.

Building this should not be an individual effort — involve some of the creative writers on your team!

Collaborating on writing the code of conduct helps employees feel like trusted and empowered members of the team. Make sure to give them clear directions on what you want and involve yourself in the process from start to finish.

Of course, building a great code of conduct starts with a great template.

It’ll help make sure you don’t miss anything important. And don’t forget to spice things up by including visual elements like photos and videos.

Keep it authentic.

Don’t look through the lens of a company avoiding liability — it’s unsupportive and vague. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of the employee.

What are some real challenges an employee might face? How should they approach those situations?

Use realistic scenarios that are likely to crop up.

The best way to do this is to (you guessed it) ask your employees. Survey them on what ethical issues they’ve faced, but remember to keep them anonymous. This shows that you care enough about your team to tailor the training to their needs.

If you’re providing catch-all solutions to these challenges, you’re assuming that everyone faces them in the same way, regardless of who they are. That’s can be a huge oversight when you’re working with a diverse group of individuals.

Provide the necessary avenues for support, but don’t tell them what they “must do.”

Keep it simple.

When given the option between, “create a respectful environment to promote proper working relationships with your colleagues,” or, “be respectful,” which would you rather read? No doubt the latter.

The quicker you get to the point, the easier it’ll be to follow. You should be clear and concise with your phrasing every step of the way so that no one feels left behind or overwhelmed.

Want to make it even easier for your employees to understand your policies?

Avoid relying on undefined industry jargon! Don’t be afraid to offer definitions of language you use, especially when they’re phrases commonly used by long-time employees of your business. Make that knowledge accessible to everyone from the get-go.

Add your code of conduct to your business playbook

Having an effective code of conduct training program can do a lot to ensure your standards are met. It moves you towards being a value-based organization.

Creating an online code of conduct that’s accessible to everyone may require a little work, but it’s well worth it.

If you’ve used an LMS before, you’re probably aware of how dull and clunky they can be.

Knowledge management systems are LMS alternatives that allow you to organize your company knowledge, SOPs, and policies in one place.

It’s a more engaging approach to traditional training methods and code of conduct manuals.

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Article

Building a Foolproof ‘Code of Conduct’ Training Program

August 4, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
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You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Your business is more than employees and supervisors. It’s an ecosystem that works towards a common goal.

But what is that goal? What are your values? How are your employees given the tools to handle issues in the workplace?

Enter: the code of conduct.

A code of conduct is made up of the rules and expectations that keep your workplace humming. It’s usually included in an employee handbook or reviewed during onboarding to make sure new employees understand what’s expected of them.

So how do you conduct a code of conduct training program, or at least one that is actually effective?

If your answer was a three-hour lecture on ethics, you might want to go back to the drawing board. Code of conduct training often gets a bad reputation because of how boring and ineffective it can be.

The problem? Employees aren’t engaged in what they are learning, but leaders believe they are.

Let’s try to fix that.

  • How to create an effective code of conduct training program.
  • How to make code of conduct information accessible.

What should I include in my code of conduct training program?

Mission statement and core values.

A mission statement summarizes your organization’s core values and goals. It’s a reminder of why your employees are doing the work they’re doing.

Providing your mission statement at the start of training sets the tone for what lies ahead and establishes a common purpose.

Sharing your values encourages employees to act with integrity, respect, and inclusion. These might include:

  • Ethical standards.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR).
  • Employee rights.
  • Diversity and inclusion.
A toddler lifting a cap that says "Respect" off his head.

Having strong organizational values is a great first step to creating an ethical workplace. Aligning your organizational values with your employees' own values creates a value-based organization.

A value-based organization has many benefits, including increased productivity, employee empowerment, and workplace harmony.

Employee behavior expectations.

You have your values, but how can employees act on them?

There should be a set of expected behaviors that employees can model. You want a smooth operation and a positive work culture, and that starts with how employees treat each other.

Here, you can include behaviors that are encouraged in the workplace and ones that violate the code of conduct.

Make sure they’re clear and easy to follow. These are expectations you don’t want employees to misunderstand.

There are many guidelines you may offer with regard to behavior, but here are some important ones to address:

  • Professionalism standards.
  • Discrimination and harassment policies.
  • Use of company property.
  • Use of social media. 
  • Rules around communication.

If inclusivity and respect are part of your core values, it’d be counterproductive to skim over high-priority topics like anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

Consider giving these policies their own section so that they’re allotted the time they deserve.

Internal practices.

We all remember syllabus day, right?

Internal practices are the day-to-day expectations you’ve set for your employees Rather than behavior, which takes more time to cover, internal practices are simple.

A man saying, "There are certain rules one must abide by."

Here, you cover the company’s policies on things like:

  • Dress code.
  • Attendance.
  • Punctuality.
  • Legal compliance.
  • Inclement weather.
  • Use of phone/social media.
  • Leave-of-absence.

Employees should be able to find these policies easily within your knowledge base.

These are common topics employees want addressed, and having the answers accessible to everyone cuts out confusion and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

In this section, you might also want to include your org chart. Delegation is a key part of having flow in your workplace and keeping communication consistent. Informing employees who they report to will save you a lot of organizational chaos.

External practices.

Your employees aren’t only going to be working within your organization, especially if they’re client-facing. External practices are the expectations around dealing with outside parties.

They’ll cover things like ethical business practices, but also, what not to share with those outside your business.

In this section, you might address:

  • Customer/client communication.
  • Privacy and confidentiality.
  • Conflicts of interest.

Disciplinary and reporting processes.

You should outline a disciplinary process for when the code of conduct is violated. And demonstrate your dedication to taking your code of conduct seriously without making exceptions based on seniority or position.

You might detail different levels of action and the order in which they are taken.

Your disciplinary structure might look something like this:

  1. Verbal warning.
  2. Written reprimand.
  3. Suspension.
  4. Termination.

On the other hand, you should also have clear reporting procedures for employees.

You’d want to feel comfortable and equipped to report conduct issues, right?

Give your employees reporting options. Not everyone is comfortable with reporting others, especially when it involves those in positions of power.

But that means that violations of the code of conduct can go unchecked. Making the options clear empowers everyone to consider reporting unethical behavior that violates your mission statement.

Employees should know:

  • How to report someone.
  • Who they should report to.
  • If reports are kept anonymous.
  • What happens after they report.
  • How their report will be followed-up on.

Does “good” code of conduct training actually exist?

Yes! But you’ll need to get creative.

Code of conduct training programs are stale when their only purpose is to inform. You’re trying to establish and maintain a company culture — and one that’s centered around accountability.

Plus, you avoid risk when your employees understand your policies.

So how can you make your code of conduct training “good?”

Create engaging content that people will actually read.

Training should be used to increase access to information, not restrict it. The drier your training, the more barriers you add to employee engagement.

Think about it: No one sits down and reads an instruction manual in their free time.

When you follow the standards of good content writing, you’re showing your employees that you put in the effort to help them succeed. Make the information relevant, clear, and interesting.

Some standards of good writing include:

  • Relevant information.
  • Logical organization.
  • Precise word choice.
  • Unique voice.

Building this should not be an individual effort — involve some of the creative writers on your team!

Collaborating on writing the code of conduct helps employees feel like trusted and empowered members of the team. Make sure to give them clear directions on what you want and involve yourself in the process from start to finish.

Of course, building a great code of conduct starts with a great template.

It’ll help make sure you don’t miss anything important. And don’t forget to spice things up by including visual elements like photos and videos.

Keep it authentic.

Don’t look through the lens of a company avoiding liability — it’s unsupportive and vague. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of the employee.

What are some real challenges an employee might face? How should they approach those situations?

Use realistic scenarios that are likely to crop up.

The best way to do this is to (you guessed it) ask your employees. Survey them on what ethical issues they’ve faced, but remember to keep them anonymous. This shows that you care enough about your team to tailor the training to their needs.

If you’re providing catch-all solutions to these challenges, you’re assuming that everyone faces them in the same way, regardless of who they are. That’s can be a huge oversight when you’re working with a diverse group of individuals.

Provide the necessary avenues for support, but don’t tell them what they “must do.”

Keep it simple.

When given the option between, “create a respectful environment to promote proper working relationships with your colleagues,” or, “be respectful,” which would you rather read? No doubt the latter.

The quicker you get to the point, the easier it’ll be to follow. You should be clear and concise with your phrasing every step of the way so that no one feels left behind or overwhelmed.

Want to make it even easier for your employees to understand your policies?

Avoid relying on undefined industry jargon! Don’t be afraid to offer definitions of language you use, especially when they’re phrases commonly used by long-time employees of your business. Make that knowledge accessible to everyone from the get-go.

Add your code of conduct to your business playbook

Having an effective code of conduct training program can do a lot to ensure your standards are met. It moves you towards being a value-based organization.

Creating an online code of conduct that’s accessible to everyone may require a little work, but it’s well worth it.

If you’ve used an LMS before, you’re probably aware of how dull and clunky they can be.

Knowledge management systems are LMS alternatives that allow you to organize your company knowledge, SOPs, and policies in one place.

It’s a more engaging approach to traditional training methods and code of conduct manuals.

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Follow me!
Article

Building a Foolproof ‘Code of Conduct’ Training Program

August 4, 2022

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