How to Create an Employment Code of Conduct

Kristin Luke

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An Employment Code of Conduct is often defined as the “rules” an employee must follow. At Kaleido, we view it not as a rules book, but rather as an expression of core company values. These shared values define not only how your company operates, but also how employees’ behavior can contribute to a happy, healthy and productive workplace.

Unlike an employee manual, which typically lists out the rules and details on everything from workplace injury to sexual harassment, the Code of Conduct uses straightforward language to tell employees, “This is who we are as a company, and if you want to join our culture, this is how you can fit in.”

Your Code of Conduct should definitely cover everything from your vacation policy to how you handle visitors to the office, but it should emphasize common sense and an adult level of responsibility to the company and other employees. As part of the development of a Code of Conduct, I advocate five simple core values: serve our clients, live a balanced life, seek financial freedom, respect each other and protect our brand.

Here’s how to develop a Code of Conduct:

Step 1: Fill in the “serve our clients” section

In this section, you’ll outline how your employees should serve your clients. This is different from insisting that your client service reps answer emails within two hours or spend a certain amount of time asking clients about their families. Instead, it will outline how your employees can develop emotional awareness, trustworthiness and adaptability – nuanced characteristics that can help build better advisor-client relationships.

Step 2: Fill in the “live a balanced life” section

Will you pay for a set amount of vacation days or offer unlimited paid time off (PTO)? In this section, you’ll explain your PTO policy, as well as lay out your thoughts on flex time, taking time off to volunteer and office closures due to natural disasters or inclement weather.

The foundation for a successful unlimited PTO program, for instance, is personal responsibility, with the philosophy that if employees see unlimited PTO as a privilege, they’ll use the program but not abuse it. This chapter of your Code of Conduct encourages employees to align their work lives with their personal lives.

Step 3: Fill in the “seek financial freedom” section

Focusing on the financials, this portion of your Code of Conduct covers the basics on wages and raises, retirement benefit plans and insurance. Beyond explaining your firm’s philosophy on raises, the section should give a broad overview of retirement account options, including 401(k)s or defined benefit plans. In closing, you’ll explain briefly how employees will be paid: every two weeks, weekly or once per month.