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Changing the rules on conduct

Can bad boys turn good? It can happen and there are a few well-known examples to prove it (think Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Robert Downey Junior). Can Barclays shake off the bad-boy days of Bob Diamond and clean up its act? It’s certainly giving it a try. In the last few days Barclays has announced that its new Chief Executive, Antony Jenkins, will introduce a new code of conduct to raise standards of behaviour.

Barclays has been tainted by a number of financial scandals in recent years, the most recent of which was rigging the Libor rate. The purpose of a code of conduct is to set out the organisation’s expectations of employees and to provide guidelines about workplace issues and situations. The Barclay’s code sets out the bank’s five key values - respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship.

Mr Jenkins has been blunt with the staff, saying: "There might be some of you who don't feel they can fully buy in to an approach which so squarely links performance to the upholding of our values. My message to those people is simple: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won't feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won't feel comfortable with you as colleagues."

A code of conduct can give employees clarity on what you expect of them. This in turn impacts positively on productivity. If you’re thinking of introducing a code of conduct, here are some tips to help you put it together.

  • Before you put pen to paper, start by considering what you want to achieve. Your aim is to make your expectations clear and give guidance on achieving them. Put it your objectives in precise and measureable terms.
  • What do you want to include? Be specific about what you want. For example, you might want to say that employees must answer the phone in a certain way or only use the internet for personal use during their lunch hour.
  • The code of conduct should reflect the organisation’s values.
  • The best way to get staff on board is to canvass and properly consider their views when putting the code together. Meet with them to discuss your ideas and take feedback.
  • Make the code of conduct a formal policy and include it (or references to it) in employment contracts.
  • Once you have reached a conclusion on the final version, let employees know what it contains. Communicate your business values to staff, tell them how you expect them to behave and how they should conduct themselves with suppliers, customers, and members of the public.
  • Set a good example.
  • Make employees aware that breaches of the code will be followed up. If anyone does so, deal with it quickly.

Mr Jenkins has got a tough job on his hands and I applaud his efforts. Most of us prefer to deal with an honest organisation. Good ethics are good for business. Consumers often associate good corporate conduct with a high quality brand and companies with a higher ethical standard tend to be viewed better by the public. Does your organization stand up to scrutiny?

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