The process of developing the code very often determines it success. It begins with an appreciation of the specific contexts, ethical challenges, stakeholders and employee engagement needed to win support for the code and ensure its relevance for its users. Key steps include:
1. Consultation with organisational members and key stakeholders about the values they would like to see guiding your organisational culture development and success. Workshop the draft content to enable stakeholders to feel they have been listened to and can commit to the final version of the new code.
2. Relevance: Effective codes speak to the day to day ethical challenges managers and employees face. Inviting staff to identify such challenges or conducting “an ethics audit” to pinpoint issues will ensure relevance.
3. Content: A typical Code might include:
- Inspirational message from the CEO
Definition of business ethics
- Core principles and values the organisation wishes to promote
- Specific behaviours supporting the values
- Examples of typical ethical challenges and how the code can be used to clarify the right action to take
- Identification of key stakeholders and reciprocal obligations
- The protections awarded to employees who speak up about issues of concern
- A ladder of escalation on how to raise issues and the key people who can help.
4. Language Choice of voice or tone used is often a subtle but critical “turn off” or “turn on” for users. Choose language to be inclusive, inspirational and designed for maximum clarity and engagement.
5. Embedding: Cross-check code content with other existing organisational protocols to ensure consistency of messaging. Reward and control systems need to be aligned to support the Code ‘s intent. A specific communication action plan including face to face training needs to accompany its roll-out with key contractors and other critical stakeholders also included.
6. Role modelling: Develop metrics to hold all leaders to account to role model the Code’s values;they are the loudest message about what matters.
7. Maintenance: Codes need to be continually reviewed and updated to take account of new technologies and accompanying changing societal values.
Your Code is a living document designed to guide the ongoing cultural development of your organisation. Regular conversations about its content as well as monthly and annual awards to employees who act as role models sends a strong message that ethical behaviour matters as much to your organisation’s success as achieving desired business outcomes.
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