Next comes the evolution of the structure and format of a best practices Code of Conduct. Initially, my experience with this is that they were written by lawyers, largely for lawyers. This included ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots’ liberally sprinkled throughout a lengthy written document. This was what is now referred to as Code 1.0. The compliance community then evolved to Code 2.0, where the writing was less turgid, moved to more employee friendly language and then somewhere along the line we started putting in hyperlinks, pictures and videos.

There are two factors which a company should consider on the structure of a Code of Conduct. The first is to consider how your organization generally communicates, overlaid with the most effective way to communicate with the various stakeholders who will read and use it. These stakeholders can include such diverse groups as employees, shareholders and third parties on both the sales and supply side of your business. This may require multiple approaches.

Be sure to make your code readable. This is beyond simply eliminating legalese. It is writing English at a grade level that is sufficient for your employee population. It may be that an eighth-grade language level is appropriate for your work force. However, if you have a population consisting primarily of professionals, translating it into the appropriate languages it might be appropriate to aim for a higher level of language. Finally, you do not have to say the same thing, in multiple different ways.

Three key takeaways:

  1. Companies have moved past having a Code of Conduct written by lawyers for lawyers to a fully interactive code for all employees.
  2. Consider how information is distributed at your organization as a basis for communication in your Code of Conduct.
  3. Your Code of Conduct must be readable, in both in English and native language for non-English speaking employees.