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To be Effective, Company Codes of Conduct Can’t Exist in a Vaccuum: They Must Actively Communicate and Guide Real Values

New White Paper from LRN Corporation Finds That Codes of Conduct Which Communicate an Organization’s Purpose, Guide Employees with Deeper Values and Encourage Ethical Decision Making Have the Greatest Impact

NEW YORK, Dec. 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nearly all major companies have adopted some kind of code of conduct to formalize their ethics and compliance (E&C) policies and programs, but the good majority still use their codes in a defensive way, i.e. to prove to regulators that they have addressed compliance topics. This means that codes of conduct tend to be detached from a company’s mission and overly legalistic, according to a new white paper from ethics and compliance firm LRN Corporation, and are ineffective as a result.

/EIN News/ -- “The only way to make a code of conduct truly impactful is to make it a ‘living’ document that codifies a company’s core values and mission,” says Jim Walton, who leads LRN’s code of conduct practice.  “This means going beyond legalese and granular rules and expressing the kinds of behaviors companies wish to see their people exhibit.”

So how do ethics and compliance leaders ensure that their codes of conduct are effective, dynamic expressions of their company’s mission? LRN’s white paper, Bring Your Code to Life: Best Practices for an Effective Code of Conduct, points to a few best practices:

  • Use multiple channels to communicate your code. Codes of conduct become dead on arrival if they are only static written documents. It’s important to communicate the content of a company’s code through multiple avenues, including executive messages, mobile platforms, interactive training sessions and online quizzes.
  • Make learning the code of conduct a social experience. Developing a dialogue between front-line employees and middle managers is an important part of conveying the values of an organization. Make training around a company’s code an interactive session between managers and employees to set the “tone in the middle” that’s necessary for an effective, values-driven E&C program.
  • Utilize learning aids and storytelling to improve retention. Tools like scenario-based Q&As increase engagement with the code and help to ensure the deeper messages behind it sticks. Seeing the values that inform a company’s code of conduct in action through real world scenarios gives moral weight to its content that reading words on a page can’t.

Says Walton, “A code should connect employees to a sense of higher organizational purpose, which ties what happens in the company with larger issues in society. They reflect and reinforce the essential elements of the company’s culture and embody leadership priorities, mutual expectations and frame behaviors in terms of principles and the spirit behind corporate values.”

More broadly, forward-thinking ethics and compliance programs are catching on to the effectiveness of a “values-based” approach: LRN’s 2018 Ethics & Compliance Program Effectiveness Report found that over half of the employees surveyed said their employers’ E&C programs focused increasingly on values over rules “to a great degree.”

“The best way for ethics and compliance to be truly effective is to focus on deeper ethical values, and a company’s code of conduct is often the main expression of a company’s larger E&C program,” says Walton. “So, an effective code of conduct can often serve as the foundation of an effective, values-based E&C program.”       


Since 1994, LRN has helped over 20 million people at more than 700 companies worldwide simultaneously navigate complex legal and regulatory environments and foster ethical cultures. LRN's combination of practical tools, education, and strategic advice helps companies translate their values into concrete corporate practices and leadership behaviors that create sustainable competitive advantage. In partnership with LRN, companies need not choose between living principles and maximizing profits, or between enhancing reputation and growing revenue: all are a product of principled performance. As a global company, LRN works with organizations in more than 100 countries and has offices in major cities around the world, including New York, London, and Mumbai.

Devin Tilitz
Sommerfield Communications
(212) 255-8386


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