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Many companies focus solely on covering all the legal mandates when writing a code of conduct and end up losing sight of the document’s real potential. A code of conduct provides companies with the unique opportunity to share its vision, mission and values in a single document.

A code of conduct outlines the principles of the organization and can guide employees through tough ethical situations. However, a code that is simply a list of rules and policies will fail to properly educate or inspire employees. Construction companies can maximize their code’s effectiveness by updating it with the following best practices.

Start by re-examining the code’s content, structure and readability. Is it filled with compliance jargon and legal mandates? Is it hard for the average reader to understand? Try organizing content by high-level topics or behavior instead of laws. This will help employees relate to and understand the material.

Establish the code’s importance to employees early on by opening with a message from executive leadership. Follow this with a section on the code’s purpose and the company’s core values and principles. Similarly, adopt a tone that matches organizational culture and employee demographics. Writing in plain language will help employees retain the material. Remember, the code is intended to be a guide for ethical decision-making, so make sure there are no gray areas in content and that all language is clear and concise.

Complement refreshed content with an eye-catching design. High impact design can dramatically improve the code’s usability and retention. Try incorporating design tactics such as pull-quotes to add emphasis to key points, call-out boxes to feature high-level information and a company-specific question and answer section. Incorporating corporate branding standards such as company colors, fonts and logos into the overall design will help make the code feel unique and authentic to the company. Given that all employees and oftentimes customers, investors, business partners and the general public have access to the code, it’s important to consider it as much of a marketing piece as it is a policy document.

In today’s technology-driven world, it’s critical to make the code digital. Putting the code online makes it possible for employees to access it from anywhere at any time, which is very important for an industry as mobile as construction. Users can also click and search for topics in a digital version. Additionally, digital allows for engaging multimedia elements such as video, quizzes, games and decision resources to be incorporated throughout. Interactive activities help bring complex concepts to life and enable users to truly interact with the material. Consider requiring the completion of such activities as a way to test employees’ understanding of the concepts, promote retention and identify potential weaknesses in the codes.

Following are some other tips to keep in mind when creating a code of conduct.

  • Post an easy to find link to the digital code on the corporate intranet. If a significant number of employees work on their mobile or tablet devices, consider offering a mobile friendly version, too.
  • Make sure compliance reporting tools, like the whistleblower hotline number and department contact information, are easy to find.
  • If the company operates or employs people in other states or countries, then be mindful of differences in legislation and regulations. For international offices, be sure the code is not only in the native language but also sensitive to cultural nuances and country-specific information.
  • Solicit feedback from employees to find out which areas of the code of conduct they enjoy, areas they may still be confused about and any questions they may still have. Doing this will highlight areas for improvement and ultimately make future version more engaging and effective.
Incorporating these best practices into the code will drive the right behavior and set expectations across the organization. It also can reduce employee risks and serve as an ever-present guide to company values and principles. After the code is updated, be sure to leverage it in awareness programs and conduct training sessions around its principles. Finally, don’t forget to reevaluate the code at least every two years in order to be sure it is still relevant and reflects the changing business environments and regulatory requirements.

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