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Record retention is complex and time consuming. However, in addition to complying with various federal and state laws, keeping good, well-organized records can be very helpful in documenting and supporting an organization’s employment actions.
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This special report will discuss how you can ensure your records are in good order, and establish a record-retention policy.

Topics covered:
1. Hiring Records
2. Employment Relationships
3. Termination Records
4. Litigation Issues
5. Electronic Information Issues
6. Tips for Better Recordkeeping
7. A List of Legal Requirements

Make sure you have the information you need to know to keep your records in order.

November 13, 2003
Setting the Standard: Developing An Organizational Code of Ethics
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For a Limited Time receive a FREE HR Report "Critical HR Recordkeeping." This exclusive special report covers hiring records, employment relationships, termination records, litigation issues, electronic information issues, tips for better recordkeeping, and a list of legal requirements.   Download Now
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.

A code of ethics illustrates for customers, employees, and the community your organization’s 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 specific–denoting 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 customer’s 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 firm’s 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 firm’s 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 the following:

  • Provision of a safe and healthy workplace
  • Fair employment practices, including avoidance of any type of discrimination
  • A maintained responsibility for environmental protection and practices
  • Compliance with laws promoting good business practices and ensuring fair competition
  • 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 company’s 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 years ago and still followed today by employees and management of every J & J company. It is an excellent example of a corporation’s 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.

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