A company code of conduct is a document that defines the character and culture of your organization. It articulates your organizational values as well as the rules and regulations that employees must follow while working for your company. The code also explains what behavior is expected from employees while they're at work—and what consequences they might face if they engage in misconduct. However, writing a code of conduct does not automatically change the culture of your organization. It’s important to educate your team members on what’s included in your code and how those elements apply to their day-to-day work. This is where code of conduct training comes in.
What is code of conduct training?
Code of conduct training teaches employees about your company’s code of conduct. This type of training is designed to help your employees understand their ethical and legal responsibilities to each other and the wider organization. Code of conduct training also helps prevent violations of the company code and maintain an appropriate working environment for everyone. You can try out the code of conduct training LRN offers here.
Who needs code of conduct training?
Code of conduct training is a must-have for anyone who has contact with employees or customers—for example, managers, directors, and executives. It’s also important to consider the impact that your company code can have on other parties. Certain business practices or decisions may require that your investors and board members complete code of conduct training as part of the process.
Why do you need code of conduct training?
You need to have code of conduct training because it's the right thing to do. A code of conduct influences your organizational culture in terms of how your employees and other stakeholders behave, make decisions, and pursue business objectives to safeguard integrity, respect, fairness, and honesty. Because they are a reflection of your company, you want all stakeholders to be able to represent your organization in the best light possible.
Training also helps your organization meet DOJ guidance. The US Department of Justice notes in its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs that “...prosecutors should examine whether the company has a code of conduct that sets forth, among other things, the company’s commitment to full compliance with relevant Federal laws that is accessible and applicable to all company employees.” Educating employees on how your code relates to their role and where they can locate it is a key step to ensuring your code of conduct is accessible and applicable to everyone.
Code of conduct training is also required under certain circumstances, including:
- If you're a public company (NASDAQ or NYSE)
- If you work with government customers
How to create good code of conduct training
When you create a code of conduct training course, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you need to ensure that the content is appropriate and relevant for all your employees—including middle management and senior leadership. It should also be engaging and interactive, so that learners don’t get easily bored.
Use clear language when writing your course so that the material is easy for everyone to understand, regardless of employee role or level of expertise. Finally, make sure that all employees understand how important code of conduct training is for them personally; proper training can help prevent situations where people might cause harm or unwanted disruption in the office environment.
What to include in code of conduct training
Like most things ethics and compliance, code of conduct training will look and feel different for every organization depending on your industry, values, and learner population. But there are some topic areas, like the ones below, that are worth including in your training no matter what.
What are some examples of a code of conduct?
While it might seem obvious, it’s worth introducing your training with a quick refresher of what a code of conduct is: a set of rules and guidelines that define your company values and the behaviors that everyone should adhere to throughout their workday—employees, managers, and senior management alike.
The following are examples of guidelines that might be in a company code of conduct:
- Employees must always treat other staff members with respect. They should also follow company policies when dealing with clients in person or over the phone.
- Managers must lead by example and uphold the same standards as their employees when interacting with each other during meetings or other events both in the office and at work-related locations (e.g., during corporate retreats). They must also maintain professionalism when dealing with vendors, customers, or any other third party associated directly with company operations.
(Side note: If you’re looking for good examples of codes of conduct to refresh your own code, we’ve put together a list here.)
Common types of violations under a code of conduct policy
While code of conduct policies will vary from one organization to another, it can generally be broken down into two categories: internal and external. The first category covers violations like discrimination, harassment, and misuse of company assets. The second category outlines things like conflicts of interest and confidentiality issues. Explaining these types of violations—and their consequences—are worth covering in code of conduct training. You can start with the following definitions as a foundation:
- Discrimination occurs when someone is treated negatively based on their race, gender, or other perceived characteristics that are protected by the law (such as disability).
- Harassment occurs when someone is subjected to unwelcome comments or actions based on those same protected characteristics.
- Misuse of company assets can include anything from someone taking confidential information home without authorization, to using company resources for personal projects unrelated to someone’s job duties.
- Conflicts of interest may arise when an employee is doing paid work for competitors while working for your company. This doesn't mean employees can't have outside jobs or work with other businesses in some capacity, but it does need to be addressed if it might compromise their ability to do their job at your organization.
The key takeaway
Code of conduct training is an essential part of ethics and compliance for any business, regardless of size, industry, or region. It helps ensure that all employees know what is expected of them as members of your organization—which can ultimately improve your company’s culture, productivity and overall performance.
To learn more, try LRN’s code of conduct training for free or check out our collection of resources on creating an effective code.