What Does Strong Code of Conduct Training Look Like?

Why Organizations Need Code of Conduct Training

Most companies recognize the need for a code of conduct. In fact, the Dow Jones and Metricstream global anti-corruption report found that as of 2016, at least 96 percent of their 330 survey respondents indicate their organization has an internal code of conduct.

But simply having a code of conduct that employees are given during their onboarding process isn’t enough to ensure they comprehend the material. In order to emphasize its importance and explain its contents, organizations need a well-designed code of conduct training program.

Forward-thinking businesses are starting to catch on. The most recent National Business Ethics Survey found that more than eight in 10 companies now provide ethics training – up from 74 percent in 2011. Two-thirds of today’s organizations use ethical conduct as a performance measure for employee evaluations.

According to the Association of Corporate Counsel, code of conduct training gives employees the opportunity “to practice applying the principles and guidelines to specific, real-life situations they may encounter in their work.”

Additionally, any type of ethics training shouldn’t be a one and done thing-which is something we’ve talked about before with anti-corruption training. It’s natural for people to forget what they’ve learned, so it’s important to offer additional training modules throughout the year.

So what makes an effective code of conduct training program? Corporate ethics and compliance expert James D. Berg has identified five key hallmarks of a strong training program.

5 Key Elements of a Strong Code of Conduct Training Program

Develop knowledge of ethical conduct.

A code of conduct provides a “common reference point for non-negotiable standards, as well as for making judgments on how to resolve conflicts between different objectives”,says the PwC Fraud Academy.

However, many codes fall short of giving employees what they need to understand how they’re expected to behave. Ethics training fills this gap; its primary goal should be to expand employees’ understanding of your company’s code of conduct, along with any relevant laws and regulations.

Encourage reporting of misconduct.

Of employees who witness wrongdoing on the job, only about two-thirds choose to report it. Nearly half of those who remain silent do so out of fear of retaliation. Helping employees build the courage to report unethical conduct allows companies to take advantage of their number-one tool for fraud detection: internal whistleblowers.

Four out of 10 fraud cases are discovered through whistleblower tips – nearly half of which come from employees. A quality training program should help employees feel comfortable reporting ethical misconduct.

Develop ethical decision-making skills.

A code of conduct is useless unless employees understand how they can use it in their daily decision-making. Your training program should provide the opportunity to explore how they might handle real-life ethical dilemmas on the job.

What should they do when caught between conflicting demands? Who can they talk to about misconduct they’ve witnessed at work? By the end of their training, employees should feel capable of navigating these types of ethical gray areas.

Build trust between employees and leaders.

Employees who trust their leaders to act ethically have higher job satisfaction and commitment. Unfortunately, managers commit 60 percent of workplace misconduct. Code of conduct training provides a crucial opportunity to deepen trust within your company by setting the expectation that leaders will:

  • Treat low-level employees with respect.
  • Uphold standards even if it cuts into profits.
  • Remain steady in a crisis.
  • Hold themselves accountable.
  • Recognize and reward ethical behavior.

Encourage an ethical culture.

At least 67 percent of workplace misconduct occurs more than once, and more than a quarter involves ongoing wrongdoing, signaling the lack of an ethical business culture in many organizations. Only 20 percent of workers report misconduct in companies with strong ethical cultures, compared to 88 percent who witness wrongdoing in companies with weak cultures.

A strong training program should do more than just set the ethical tone for your organization – it should foster a widespread belief in your company’s culture of ethics. (As an added bonus, nearly two-thirds of CEOs say ethics and values are the top organizational attributes that propel employees to give their best.)


By itself, a code of conduct has little impact. But when paired with an effective ethics training program, it can go a long way toward helping your company succeed in today’s complex business climate.

To learn more about our ethics and code of conduct training courses, request a demo.