Business and personal reputations take years to build but can be lost overnight. In the absence of any guidelines on expected behaviour, executives and employees alike can act in ways that bring the company into disrepute or create problems that are time-consuming and costly to resolve.
A code of conduct will help to clarify what is and what is not acceptable behaviour within your organisation. HSS has a code of conduct which has recently been selected as a template by The Industrial Society and incorporates our ethical policy and practices. It carries no contractual obligation but simply runs in the background, providing a point of reference for all employees and any other person having dealings with the company.
Drawing up a code of conduct doesn't have to be a complex process. A small project group representing the different interests of the company can be brought together to agree the areas that the code will cover. The mission statement is a good starting point as it already identifies the company's raison d'etre. Simply reiterating the need to meet legal requirements is, however, not enough. Think about the preferred mode of behaviour and what is to be acceptable or not. The code could include areas such as conflicts of interest, criminal activities and public concerns at work. It should extend to employees, suppliers, shareholders, customers and relations with regulatory bodies.
Once the code is developed, think about how it can best be implemented. This will depend on the communications systems that your organisation already has in place. Without the understanding and commitment of your employees, suppliers and contractors, the code won't work. So, explain the purpose of the code and how it affects the way they work or have dealings with your organisation. It is a good idea to set up a response system, such as a confidential hotline, where anyone who feels that the code is being breached can share their concerns. Society and business is always changing. To ensure that the code remains effective and relevant, it needs to be reviewed and updated regularly.
Lister Fielding is the managing director of HSS Hire Service Group, 0181 260 3100.