Describe the steps to be followed in the implementation of a code of ethics
A code of conduct is an important management tool which can positively shape the culture of an organisation. Many organisations have found that adopting a clearly defined approach to ethical issues improves the organisation’s reputation, helps to develop pride among staff and is good for business. A code of conduct wets out the standards of behaviour expected of staff in an organisation and should help them to solve ethical dilemmas they face at work. A good code of conduct is an active document to which all staff in the organisation refer-not a document that sits on a shelf in a senior manager’s office gathering dust.
Steps for developing a corporate ethics program Confirm the development phase of the code
Ensure that a checklist regarding the development of the code is adhered to. In this regard, confirm the awareness of the need for the code throughout the organisation early in the process. Ensure that as many people as possible, including employees, are involved in the development of the code, that the desired ethical climate and organizational culture are inculcated, that research with regard to the concerns about ethical issues of all the stakeholders is done, that a set of vital values is articulated as a foundation upon which to build the code, that the values are phrased and explained so as not to be vague, but to make it possible to access after a period of time whether they are actually being implemented in practice.
Institutionalise and Internalise the code
One way of ensuring that the code is made a living document, is to accept, institutionalize and internalize the organisation’s value system as an integral part of its strategic management process and managerial style. In this regard, institutionalizing implies establishing a new vision, an organizational culture, a set of universally shared values and a set of norms subscribing to these values in the organisation and making employees aware of this development through a number of ways, such as training, discussion sessions, visits by top management, performance management, culture interventions, ethics appraisals and ethics audits etc. The aim is to gain the commitment of employees, for the sake of unity and uniformity in an organisation, to think and act the same and to jointly work towards the same goal.
Internalising, in turn, implies the perpetuation of the organisation’s culture by every member of the organisation in order to convince them, through repeated experience of or exposure to the vision, culture, values and norms of the organisation, to absorb the contents of the code and making it part of their attitudes, feelings, beliefs, etc.
Prepare the launch of the code
The way in which the code is going to be launched, must be planned carefully so as to achieve both maximum exposure and maximum commitment. The launch must therefore reflect the intention of the code. If economy is stressed, a lavishly illustrated and expensive booklet will send the wrong message. The fact that the code is not just another policy paper, must, however, be strongly communicated throughout the organisation. Top-level presence of the leadership of the organisation during the launch of the code, will be perceived as a token of their commitment to apply the values and the code to the work of top management. Even before the launch of the code, the sincerity and determination to make a permanent impact, must be demonstrated to counter cynical response. This can be done by starting to live the values well before they are published and not ever claiming that it is possible to live up to all of them.
Communicate the code
Each of the dimensions of a code, namely the aim, process, form, content and tone thereof, have important implications for the communicability and success of the communication of the code. The fact that the process followed to develop the code could grant credibility and knowledge to the code if the code is based on transparency and participation, serves as an example in this regard. Apart from the communication potential in the development and design of the code, the code must, after it has been finalized, be communicated to at least all the internal stakeholders or the organisation. The communication should not be a once off exercise, but must be sustained. In this regard it serves to mention that a single mass signing of an ethical code by all employees of an organisation cannot be compared to a mass acceptance of the code.
Enforce the code
Enforcement mechanisms must be implemented for a code to work. In this regard, the organisation must not only identify the values essential to the organisation, it must also develop a process that evaluates members’ conduct and creates a reward and penalty system that reflects the presence or absence of these values. Sanctions for disregard of the values and violations of the code are necessary to emphasise to employees the seriousness of the undertaking and its importance to the organisation. Compliance and enforcement must therefore flow from the top and a high level of organizational commitment is vital in order for the code to be effective and have a truly positive impact on the organisation and its employees. The organisation would also have to resolve who or which office would have the responsibility for administering the code and dealing with infractions. That entity could also act in an advisory capacity by dealing with questions of interpretation or by providing recommendations regarding ambiguous situations.
Reinforce the message
Promotional campaigns and glossy launches don’t change behaviour in an organisation to any significant degree. It therefore has to be followed up by continual reinforcement of the message. It is also clear that it must be seen that the organisation is serious about its espoused values. To ensure that these new principles are incorporated in every aspect of training, may therefore constitute a powerful way to achieve this. In this regard, all activities of the organisation should relate naturally to what it claims to value, because if you are not prepared for this it will rapidly become clear that the pretence of valuing the publicized values is little more than a public relations exercise. New managers and staff should be made familiar in their induction training with the code and/or values statement, and also with how people are expected to use it. At least for
senior positions and for jobs involving external contact, a discussion of values and their significance should have taken place at the recruitment stage.