An important part of a business is its employee code of conduct. Codes of conduct help employees navigate issues in the workplace and outline a company’s ethical framework. While your company may already have a mission statement, goals, and standards of practice in place, a code of conduct brings all of these elements together in one document. Whether you’re looking to write a new code from scratch or update your existing code, find our tips for writing the best employee code of conduct below.
Why Your Business Needs an Employee Code of Conduct
Every business needs an employee code of conduct. It’s a set of statements that apply to every company employee. Ideally, the code of conduct should:
- Unite all employees under the company’s basic views and principles
- Guide all business activities and ensure that the company is always performing to the best of its ability
- Apply any relevant regulations or laws to company activities
- Outline what employees, customers, suppliers, and partners can expect when they do business with your company
A code of conduct can also clarify the company’s ethics. Employees should be able to use the code to help them make decisions throughout their workday. It serves as a form of communication, or a go-between, for employees, managers, and people outside of the business itself.
All of this may sound intimidating — how can one document accomplish so much? But writing an employee code of conduct can be simple.
How to Write an Employee Code of Conduct
An employee code of conduct needs to represent every employee, no matter what department he or she works in. This means that the more input you receive from other employees, the better your code of conduct will be. Ask around and do your research — what setbacks are employees experiencing in the workplace that could be solved in a code of conduct? Do they notice any inconsistencies? Who’s not on the same page? Solving these problems in your code of conduct now can prevent other issues from occurring later.
Depending on the size of your business, your code of conduct can be as short as one page or as long as a novel. But no matter how long you want your code to be, here are some items to consider including:
- General business conduct and practices
- Use and protection of company assets
- Non-disclosure and confidentiality
- Patents, trademarks, and copyrights
- Equal employment opportunity and diversity
- Harassment and workplace violence
- Safety and health
- Conflicts of interest
- Environmental practices
- Advertising, sales, marketing
- Relationships with vendors, suppliers, and contractors
- Reporting inappropriate behavior and violations
- Incident handling and investigation
- Personal responsibility statement
You can write about all of these or just a few. Use your knowledge of daily operations and your company’s industry to decide what to add to your individual code.
What Makes a Good Code of Conduct?
A good code of conduct is written in simple language that is easy to understand. Since it’s a document that employees need to be able to read and interpret, it should be clear and accessible. It also needs to be as extensive as possible — it should cover as many daily operations and answer as many questions as you can come up with. Think about recent issues your company has experienced and try to resolve them within your code. Or think about tough decisions you yourself have had to make and write the code as if you are coaching another employee through the same decision. What information would he or she need to know?
A code of conduct works best when it is acknowledged and applied by people in leadership positions within the company first. When a CEO or manager gets behind a code of conduct, it shows customers and employees alike that the company is on a united front. You may also want to post your code of conduct online where others can easily find it and read it for themselves.
Code of Conduct Samples
Need examples? Many existing companies already have great codes of conduct posted online. Start with these for inspiration:
- Google’s code of conduct is easy to find online and easy to read.
- Starbucks’ code includes frequently asked questions and answers.
- Coca-Cola’s code is much longer and well-organized.
- Hershey’s code is designed with attention to detail.
- Johnson & Johnson’s code includes a hotline that employees can call anytime if they have questions about the document itself.
- General Electric’s code is a modern take on a code of conduct.
- Procter and Gamble’s code is extensive and very thorough.
- Microsoft’s code is very visual and written in simple language.
- Facebook’s code is written in the form of an interactive website.
If you’re still stuck, try searching for free employee code of conduct templates online and using one or two as a starting point.