In its most literal meaning, the definition of organizational culture is described as the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.

Organizational culture encompasses many elements and is both concrete and dynamic. By today’s standard, every company should pay close attention to their organizational culture. Companies should show dedication to fostering an environment that fulfills the company’s culture objectives.

One of the most fascinating traits of organizational culture is that it’s a living, breathing element of every business. Sometimes it is easily definable and respectfully recognizable. Other times it can be complex to define and even more difficult to develop. At the foundation of company culture is a well-organized Code of Conduct. Developed at the top-level and implemented downward, a Code of Conduct communicates the company’s expectations of an ethical culture.

Elements of a Strong Code of Conduct

A well-defined Code is a statement of who the company is as a whole, it’s purpose and core values. It also addresses how the company interacts with others, and in what manner they do business. The Code clearly outlines the company’s core values, integrity, and how their actions are in compliance with the law. The Code leaves no questions of how or why a company or its representatives should interact.

Additionally, the Code of Conduct has a positive and inclusive tone that truly reflects the company’s mission and values. The Code should be easy to read and understand, be engaging, and be relevant. Before crafting or refining your company’s Code of Conduct, it may be helpful to read through those already written and published.

Beyond the Written Pages

A strong Code of Conduct outlines many things that ultimately affect an organization’s work environment and atmosphere. Many of these elements rely on definitions from within the Code of Conduct, but extend far beyond the written pages into a fluid and always fluctuating professional environment. A strong ethical Code drives desired behaviors that also impact the company’s reputation with outsiders such as customers, suppliers, shareholders, business partners, prospective employees and the community at-large.

A Code of Conduct is a living document that shouldn’t simply sit on a shelf and be forgotten. It should be communicated and reinforced to employees through effective training that is engaging and interactive. The most effective training includes real-life, everyday ethical situations. New employees should be trained as part of the on-boarding process and annual training and compliance certification is essential.

The time investment in developing a Code of Conduct is only valuable if the guidelines are put to use. The Code of Conduct should be accessible to employees as a tool in their decision-making process. This is most impactful when done in an interactive manner with an online version that links to other, more detailed company policies.

If given a moment to reflect on your company’s culture and ethical Code of Conduct, what do they say about your company? At the end of the day, will your employees say with pride where they work, and will your community embrace you for what you stand for?