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You've got a Code of Conduct - So whats next?

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Having a Code of Conduct and Ethics does not ensure that staff will read it or that even if they do read it that they will understand it. Further action needs to be taken.

Many organisations have now formulated Codes of Conduct and Ethics. The question is what is next? 



If staff do not see the Code then they cannot be expected to act in accordance with it. It is therefore important that a copy of the Code is distributed to every staff member.  

In addition a summary version may be distributed that staff can keep as a ready reference. 

In some organisations there are a significant number of staff who are unaware of the existence of their organisation's Code, and far more who may be aware that their organisation has a Code but are unaware of its contents. 

The Code of Conduct is often easy to spot in an office. It is the document in the file that has gathered the most dust and is on the highest, most inaccessible shelf. It is usually next to the manual for D Base 1. 


Education and Awareness 

Formulating a Code of Conduct and Ethics and distributing it to staff does not ensure that all staff will read it, or if they do read it that they will understand it. 

There are many organisations with a wide range of staff, including those with poor literacy skills and those from an ethnic background with poor English skills. In these organisations education and awareness is the only method for ensuring that the contents of the Code are understood by all the staff. 

Codes of Conduct and Ethics typically contain many complex subjects of ethics, which are often grey, as opposed to black and white. These subjects are invariably, of necessity, briefly covered in the Code. 

Ensuring that staff understand the complex issues can only be achieved through education and training. 

Education and awareness can be done through formal training courses, informal workshops, discussion groups, as part of routine training and meetings, articles in internal publications, special newsletters, posters, videos, etc. 

The least effective method is writing and distributing memos. Memos can however be combined with other methods. 


Keeping Your Code Current 

Codes get to be out of date as circumstances change. It is important that they are revisited and updated to meet the challenges of changed circumstances. 


Internal auditors' role 

Internal auditors can have a significant role in helping organisation's improve their ethical culture. Internal auditors are extremely well placed to take a leading role.  

Internal auditors see their organisations from "grass roots" level as well as senior managements' perspectives. 

They should be more in touch with ethical issues than anyone else in the organisation. 

On the other hand, if auditors ignore this opportunity they may find their roles in organisations further diminished.  

Internal auditors should assist in providing ethics advice, training and enforcement.



If infringements of the Code are not dealt with appropriately then there should not be any expectation that the Code will be complied with. 

Suspected infringements should be investigated and dealt with fairly and in accordance with established procedures.


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For more tips, advice and practical pointers see Fraudproof Your Business Manual.