There is growing evidence that workplace diversity promotes productivity, innovation, employee job satisfaction and an organization’s financial performance. Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, however, means more than simply hiring employees of different backgrounds, races and genders. Rather, it requires a culture that consistently fosters inclusion, making employees feel accepted and encouraged to participate fully in the organization. One of the fundamental ways employers can create and maintain such a culture is through a Code of Conduct.
What Does a Code of Conduct Do?
A Code of Conduct sets out an organization’s core values and expectations for behavior. It also provides employees with guidance on how to navigate difficult situations in the workplace. As the foundation of organizational culture, a Code of Conduct can go a long way towards fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace by highlighting what is — and what is not — acceptable behavior and promoting inclusive thinking.
Fundamentals of an Effective Code of Conduct
The following are key considerations for developing a Code of Conduct that supports a diverse and inclusive workforce:
- Use clear, concise language. A written Code of Conduct should be easy to understand and not full of technical or legal terminology. It should avoid vague terms such as “fair” or “kind,” while instead offering clear examples of both acceptable and unacceptable behavior that will not leave employees guessing at the organization’s expectations.
- Outline goals and values and explain key policies. After clearly communicating the organization’s goals and values (including D&I goals), the Code should explain key policies covering a variety of important topics, including diversity and inclusion, discrimination, harassment and bullying. In addition, the Code should encourage employees to raise concerns and report incidents of misconduct through the organization’s complaint process.
- Demonstrate support from the top. Leadership should acknowledge and approve the organization’s Code of Conduct by demonstrating it through their words and actions. This sends a strong message to employees that the organization is serious about creating a respectful, diverse and inclusive workplace.
- Train and educate all employees. Organizations should not assume employees will automatically be able to understand, appreciate and know how to apply the Code simply by reading it. Providing Code of Conduct training reinforces the purpose and importance of the Code and increases employees’ understanding of how values and standards are expressed in everyday behaviors and decisions.
- Stay up to date with ethics and compliance issues. A Code of Conduct is a living document that should be regularly reviewed and revised so it’s up to date with ethics and compliance issues and regulations and addresses any specific areas of concern for the organization and its industry.
A Code of Conduct can serve as a roadmap for fostering ethical behavior, respect, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By signaling to employees that the organization will support them when they act in accordance with its values, expectations, processes and procedures, employees may be more likely to speak up about harassment, discrimination, bias or other misconduct that can undermine D&I strategy. Overall, an effective Code of Conduct should encourage employees to help the organization achieve its mission and create a positive and productive workplace in which all employees feel their ideas and participation are valued and respected.