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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

'Ethics Bots' and Other Ways to Move Your Code of Business Conduct Beyond Puffery

Michael Blanding
Harvard Business Week
Originally posted May 14, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Even if not ready to develop or deploy such technologically advanced solutions, companies can still make their ethics codes more intuitive, interactive, and practical for day-to-day decision-making, Soltes says. That may mean reducing the number of broad-brush value statements and uninspired clip-art, instead making the document more concise in describing practical guidelines for the company’s employees.

He also recommends thinking beyond the legal department to bring in other areas of the company, such as marketing, communications, or consumer behavior specialists, to help design a code that will be understandable to employees. Uber, for example, rolled out a mobile app-focused version of its ethics code to better serve its employees, who are younger and more tech savvy.

Lastly, Soltes advises that firms not be afraid to experiment. An ethics code shouldn’t be a monolith, but rather a living document that can be adapted to the expanding needs of a firm and its employees. After rolling out a policy to a subgroup of employees, for example, companies should evaluate how the code is actually being used in practice and how it can be further refined and improved.

That kind of creativity can help companies stay away from the scrutiny of regulators and avoid negative headlines. “Ultimately, the goal should not simply be to just create a legal document, but instead a valuable tool that helps cultivate the kind of behavior and culture the firm wants to support on a day-to-day basis,” Soltes says.

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