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How Code of Conduct Training Can Inspire Employees


March 20, 2020  |  Laraine McKinnon


Most of our clients use Emtrain for their ongoing mandatory training, so we spend a lot of time thinking: how can we make required training more interesting and impactful for employees? A hot topic for us is the Code of Conduct, the written rules of business. We’ve spent the last several months completely rethinking our approach.

In preparation, we showed us a website that had compiled the best Code of Conduct examples with links to each of them. We clicked through beautifully branded PDFs like Hershey (yum!), well-organized web pages like Google’s (complete with their dog policy), and those like Starbucks, designed like a corporate annual report.

These are great examples of static policies, but how do we bring Code of Conduct to life for employees? How do they get inspired to live it every day?

  1. Invite them in. Your Code of Conduct is about each and every person in your organization, and the choices they make every day. Connect a message from senior leadership to your Code of Conduct, inviting employees to own their part in it.
  2. Get everyone on the same page. As an organization, you’re all on the same team, and success or failure happens together. We’re working harder, working faster, and if you’re like most companies, your employee base is getting more diverse. This means we need to prioritize respect, and improve the way we communicate and collaborate, especially when under pressure. When you roll out your Code of Conduct training, it’s a chance to reinforce respectful teamwork.
  3. Tell them what you expect, and why it’s important. Your company mission and vision, and rules and requirements, are designed for collective success. When someone makes an unethical decision, harms a colleague, or violates a policy, it brings the whole company down. It diverts resources from doing the positive and productive things that lead to success. Be sure to communicate that link between your Code of Conduct and business success.
  4. Give them context. When you’re training people on your Code of Conduct, give them examples of situations that go wrong—and how to fix them. Help employees understand common areas where people make poor decisions. Give examples of situations with different outcomes: one where someone makes a bad choice, along with the alternate ending, where someone pauses, reconsiders, and makes the better choice. Going through an example gives people a mental exercise that prepares them for the next time they’re in a similar difficult moment.
  5. Ask them what they think. No organization is perfect, but how healthy is yours? How do you know how effective your Code of Conduct is (aside from counting how many big violations you get a year)? Find out by asking employees what they think:
    • How do colleagues typically respond to difficult situations?
    • Would they give feedback to a colleague who is doing something improper?
    • Would they report an ethics issue? 
    • Do they think management would take their complaint seriously if they made one?

We help our clients transform their Code of Conduct requirement from a hurry-up-and-click-through PDF to a modern interactive experience online. Our course centers on the skills needed to create a healthy and ethical workplace culture while connecting them to your mission and values. Our goal is to help figure out what’s really driving the behaviors, emotions, and ethics of your employees, in an experience that they’ll actually appreciate.

See how we introduce our Code of Conduct course on our YouTube channel and request a demo of our program.


code of conduct

Laraine McKinnon

Laraine is an advisor to Emtrain, and an unconscious bias expert. Laraine is a passionate supporter of diversity in the workplace; she focuses on blending behavioral science (managing unconscious bias, organizational behavior), big data and practical implementations to transform workplace cultures. Laraine has led high-performance customer success and sales teams at BlackRock and Barclays Global Investors, and founded strategic consulting firm LMC17.



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