10th Jul 2023
3 Min Read

Crack your code of conduct to complete your culture

Declan Newcombe
Declan Newcombe
Culture & Insights

Dig it out, dust it off and end the years of neglect: your code of conduct is more important than ever.

It’s not cool and it’s definitely not pretty, but your code of conduct should never be underestimated.

It has been shunned by so many – IC teams included – for years. It’s been filed away, occasionally appropriated by legal and compliance teams, only to be wheeled out for inductions or mandatory training. So why is it making a comeback? Well, it never really went away.

While we’ve been laser-focused on engagement, driving D&I and perfecting ways of working, we’ve forgotten about the one thing that brings these efforts and actions together in one place: the code of conduct.

It’s far more than commercial conquest

The humble code of conduct helps us make tough decisions to steer a business towards success. As Robert Föehl, Target’s first director of corporate compliance and ethics, explains: “A well-designed code of conduct – that supports the organisation’s purpose and core values – helps to anchor the decision maker [colleague] during the storm.”

But your code is far more than a map to dry land and commercial conquest.

It sets the bare minimum you expect from your people and what they can expect from you; what’s acceptable and what’s not. It’s a tool for colleagues to hold each other accountable and say ‘no, that doesn’t fit with our values’. If you let it, your code of conduct will be the foundation of your culture.

But this poses some serious questions to the code-neglecting IC team. If your code isn’t robust, up to date or aligned with your key messages, is working hard enough.

"“The words ‘code of conduct’ may not fill you with joy, you may not have even seen it outside of an induction or training, but it’s time to turn that around.” Russ Norton, director of client experience."

Cracking your code

Your code of conduct is never going to be the most thrilling read. But it might be one of the most important tools in your kit.

Azish Filabi, associate professor and executive director of the centre for ethics at the American College of Financial Services, adds: “A code of conduct that is envisioned as simply a rules-based legal document is a lost opportunity for engaging with employees.”

If you’ve been guilty of ignoring this pillar of workplace culture and engagement, then it’s time to change your ways. It’s time to own it. Dig it out of a draw, pull it from the digital ether and use these three tips to overhaul your code of conduct to complete your culture.

  1. Current: Work with colleagues across HR, legal and communications to update and align the content. Do this regularly.
  2. Clear: Make it accessible, both in terms of how it’s written and how easy it is for people to find. Signpost to it across your channels and campaigns.
  3. Call to action: Give your people permission to challenge each other in the moment when they see or hear things that go against your code.

We’re working with global brands to overhaul their codes of conduct. Want help supercharging yours? Contact: hello@scarlettabbott.co.uk

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