A code of ethics illustrates for customers, employees, and the community your
organizations expectations for corporate conduct. The code of ethics becomes
the game plan from which employees can develop appropriate business strategies,
and managers can implement work policies and procedures.
The basis for the code of ethics should be the standard to which the organization
aspires to reach and wishes to be measured against. For example: "Our organization
will put its customers first in respect to both service and the quality of the
products that we sell."
A code of ethics can be specificdenoting purposeful, detailed statements
requiring adherence on the part of management and employees. Or, it can be more
general. For example: "We will respect every customer and every employee
as a valued and equal individual with whom we interact every day, regardless
of the rank of the employee or the amount of the customers business that
we can expect to fulfill. We will stand behind the quality and value of the
products that we produce and will be honest and forthright in our communication
with customers, employees, and the community."
Promoting the Code
The CEO may introduce the new company code of ethics with great fanfare to
all staff at an employee meeting, and HR may post it in prominent areas throughout
the firms location(s). After the initial introduction of the code, it
should be presented to all new employees during employee orientation or even
to employment candidates during the recruitment and interviewing process. Senior
management should require that each employee review the code of ethics and sign
a statement that requires him to agree to follow the code.
Once a code of ethics has been put into place, HR executives and senior leadership
should review the code on an annual basis and solicit employee feedback with
a mechanism such as an anonymous employee survey or discussion facilitated by
an outside objective resource. Such practices allow employees to share their
experiences with adhering to the code of ethics and their observation of other
employees and managers regarding their ethical behavior.
Adjustments and changes to the code may be implemented as necessary to reflect
any changes in the firms structure, business strategies, or in response
to changes in the business environment.
In addition, regular conversation about the code should be commonplace in department
meetings and ongoing employee training. A code of ethics should not be a statement
that is developed and put on the shelf. It should become a living document that
is followed every day.
Practical Advice and Resources
Sifting through the many resources available to assist corporate management
and HR professionals in identifying corporate values, defining them in a way
that employees will easily understand, and incorporating the information into
a code of ethics can be overwhelming.
One helpful resource that can be used by employers in developing their own
code of ethics was developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce nearly a decade
ago. This document encourages businesses to "adopt a code of conduct for
doing business around the world." The basic principles suggested by the
Department of Commerce were
- Provision of a safe and
- Fair employment practices,
including avoidance of any type
- A maintained responsibility for environmental protection and practices
- Compliance with laws promoting good business practices and ensuring
- Maintenance of a corporate culture that respects free expression
consistent with legitimate business concerns and does not condone political
coercion in the workplace; that encourages good corporate citizenship and
makes a positive contribution to the communities in which the company operates;
and where ethical conduct is recognized, valued, and exemplified by all employees
These principles represent a good foundation for the development of your own
companys code of ethics.
Some additional online resources that you may find helpful include:
- The Johnson & Johnson corporate website, http://www.jnj.com,
where you will find the "Credo" originally written more than 50
and still followed today by employees and management of every J & J company.
It is an excellent example of a corporations commitment to
its customers, employees, and surrounding communities. It incorporates the
mission, corporate values, and ethics into one document.
- Business & Legal Reports, Inc. has many additional articles and tools available regarding this topic.
Just visit http://www.blr.com and put "ethics"
or "code of ethics" into the "Search" function.
a senior HR executive, you know that having a company code of ethics makes
sense, but perhaps your firm doesn’t currently have one. So where do you
start? For senior management and HR executives of many small companies, it may
seem a formidable task to undertake the development of a code of ethics. But
constructing one may have long lasting, positive effects on the business culture
in your organization. It may also enhance your employees’ dedication and
commitment to their work and positively influence their behavior in the workplace.