A work team standing together in a modern office - demonstrating a professional code of ethics

What Is a Professional Code of Ethics?

A lot of attention has been placed on ethical behaviour in business, after many ethical scandals in the past. A professional code of ethics is one way that an organisation or company is able to align their values with the behaviour of those that are part of it. This code of ethics is a general list or outline of practices that are expected to be followed, and is often prepared by a Human Resources Manager (HR Manager).

Professional Code of Ethics Versus a Code of Conduct

It can be easy to confuse what a professional code of ethics is versus a code of conduct. It breaks down to their scope. A code of ethics is going to have a more general scope. It gives those involved a more general idea of what’s expected of them. A code of conduct, on the other hand, is more specific. It’s intended to define precisely how certain situations are to be handled.

One Document to Rule Them All

You can create a code of ethics and conduct in one document. In fact, you’ll notice that these two documents often have overlap between the different topics. Many companies have done away with separate reports as it’s usually easier to have one for employees and members of an organisation to refer to.

Topics to Cover

There is no shortage of topics that you can cover in your professional code of ethics and conduct. A short list of topics to consider includes:

  • Workplace Environment
  • Conflicts of Interest Between Employees and Outside Influences
  • Company Assets
  • Personal Use of the Internet
  • Corruption and Anti-Bribery
  • Attendance
  • Harassment of All Kinds
  • Dress Code
  • Substance Abuse and Tobacco Use.

Writing Your Document

There are a few steps that you’ll want to take when tackling your code of ethics. The first is that you have to evaluate the core values of the organisation or company, and if they aren’t defined, have them identified. This can be a good starting point for creating your document.

You’ll also want to speak with those involved with the company, internally and externally, to find out what values they think are essential for the company to have in place. Research any past ethical issues that have occurred in our company, and among other companies in your industry.

Once you’ve done some research, it’s time to write up a rough draft. This is a great starting place for everyone to comment on if it covers everything. After discussing it, it’s time to create a final draft for approval.

Once approved, send it out to all employees. Remember that it’s essential for all levels of the hierarchy from top management down to regular employees or members to follow the guidelines in the document. A document is only helpful if it’s successfully implemented.

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