The Importance of Having a Code of Conduct (& What to Include)

Creating a clear code of conduct can help you strengthen company culture, but what exactly should it cover?

The Importance of Having a Code of Conduct (& What to Include)
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As you build out your payroll policies and processes, it’s worth considering putting together a comprehensive code of conduct. Not only will this provide employees with key information and expectations, but it can also help boost your company culture.

This article covers what a code of conduct is, why you should have one, and what to include. By the end, you’ll feel confident enough to plan and create your own. Let’s begin.

What Is a Code of Conduct?

A code of conduct in the workplace is a written document outlining the rules, expected behaviors, and customs members of a business or organization must follow. While a code of conduct is different from an employment contract, it can be used in legal disputes between employers and employees.

Why Is Having a Code of Conduct Important?

No matter how small or large your business is, having a clear written code of conduct is really important for several reasons:

  • It helps build a strong, value-centered culture.
  • It gives employees structure and helps them understand what’s expected of them.
  • It reassures team members that you will respond appropriately to poor conduct.
  • It enables managers and senior leadership to make informed decisions on performance enhancement and disciplinary action.
  • It accelerates career growth within your organization by helping employees utilize their energy on what is important instead of focusing on consistent dilemmas.
  • It ensures that you adhere to company policies and docility with the legal system.

In short, a code of conduct is foundational to your business and the decisions your employees make. Without it, your team lacks the direction they need to succeed.

What to Include in Your Code of Conduct

If you’ve not written a code of conduct before, or you’d like to give your current document a refresh, it can be hard to know what to include. Below, we break down the code of conduct into eight must-haves every code of conduct should cover.

Your Brand & Company Tone of Voice

Your code of conduct is inseparable from your business, so it should be designed and written in line with your company branding and tone of voice. Use brand colors and imagery to bring it to life - no one wants to read a plain wall of text!

Additionally, the language you use should be clear and easily understood by everyone in your business, whether they’re a member of the legal team or an intern in your marketing department. So avoid jargon and get to the heart of what you want employees to know in a way that aligns with your brand.

A Message from Your Senior Leadership

While your code of conduct may be put together by your HR or People team, the messaging should be endorsed by senior leadership. That’s why it’s important to include a message from your founder or CEO. Not only does this make your code of conduct more personal and human, but it also gives the enclosed guidelines more authority and demonstrates a top-down approach to values and expectations.

Who the Code of Conduct Applies To

For clarity, it’s important to state who the code of conduct applies to - is it just employees, specific team members, independent contractors, etc.? To create a strong culture, it’s recommended that the code of conduct applies to everyone in the business, from the CEO to the most junior of staff. A top-down approach to instilling values and behaviors is crucial for a successful implementation. It ensures your staff are motivated to live by expectations because they know their seniors are held to the same standards.

Company Mission, Vision, & Values

Next, be sure to outline your company mission statement, vision, and core values. This provides essential context for how you expect employees to behave and act during their employment. Your values are key to the broader company culture, so it’s important to keep them front and center as your employees go on to read the rest of the document. Alongside your values, provide some examples of what they mean in practice. Here’s an example from Omnipresent: “Humble - We see the bigger picture and act without self-interest. We look out for each other and do whatever needs to be done as a team.”

Behavioral Expectations in Person & Online

Once you’ve established the context, it’s time to outline expected behaviors based on those values. Your expectations may cover how team members:

  • Treat each other.
  • Talk with colleagues.
  • Work with external parties.
  • Speak with the outside world.
  • Approach romantic relationships with colleagues.
  • Behave outside of the workplace (e.g., at events and social functions).

You will need to tailor these expectations to the type of workplace setup you have. For example, if your employees work remotely, do you expect them to be at home? Can they work from a cafe or the beach? Do they have the freedom to work in other countries? If you have flexible hours, what does that mean exactly? Can employees work whenever they want? Or should they respect core hours? Be sure to illustrate all these points with examples.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) should be interwoven into all these expectations, especially if you have a global team. Highlight how important DEI is for your business and how that translates to your expectations of colleagues. What type of language should they use or avoid? How can they make everyone feel included and respected? Are they to discuss political or social matters in the workplace, and if so, how?

While your code of conduct isn’t a quick fix for DEI issues, it’s a good place to lay out your expectations and put some authority behind them.

Use of Company Property

Keeping company property safe is critical to preventing data breaches, avoiding unwanted costs, and protecting intellectual property (IP). So it’s essential to include a section within your code of conduct on how employees should and shouldn’t use company property. This is particularly important if your employees work remotely or take company property outside of the office.

Company property includes any hardware, like laptops, cell phones, printers, etc., software, such as tools, and information, like client data and strategic business plans. Be sure to include a note on confidential information, explaining what it is and how employees should handle it.

Coupled with more detailed IT security policies, this can go a long way to ensuring your employees treat company property safely and appropriately.

Reporting & Disciplinary Process

Outlining your reporting and disciplinary procedures has two main benefits:

  1. It helps you establish authority with the aim of preventing poor behavior.
  2. It provides reassurance to employees that you’ll act accordingly should something go wrong.

To make your reporting and disciplinary procedures as clear as possible, it’s useful to illustrate them with some practical examples and situations. For example, what would happen if an employee said something discriminatory to a fellow colleague? How should the affected employee or other colleagues reach out, and what actions will you take once you’ve been informed?

Most importantly, let your colleagues know that you take these issues seriously and that you respect confidentiality too.

Point of Contact

Your code of conduct will contain a lot of important - and serious - information, so it’s likely your colleagues will have questions. Be sure to include a section at the end outlining a point of contact for employee queries or concerns and how they can get in touch.

You Build Culture, We’ll Help You Stay Compliant

Growing a business and building a strong culture that attracts and retains the best talent is hard work. That’s why Omnipresent’s global employment solutions give you the freedom to hire anyone, anywhere compliantly and hassle-free.

We take a weight off your shoulders by taking care of compliance, payroll, onboarding, benefits, and more for you, leaving you more time to focus on important projects like your code of conduct.

Interested to learn more? Schedule a free call with our team to get started.

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Vanessa Wanjiku

Vanessa Wanjiku is a People Partner at Omnipresent, where she is responsible for enhancing culture and the employee lifecycle within the Sales team. She has vast experience in sales within different sectors and a strong passion in implementing both strategic and innovative ways to contribute value to organizations through cultural intelligence and the people. She is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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