Millennials Want Strong Codes of Conduct

May 1, 2015 2:20 pm

By Barbara Frankel

Diverse Business TeamWhen prospective employees are deciding where to work, they increasingly examine corporate websites and look at stated values and codes of conduct.

“Gen Y’ers are very interested in this. We find they check this out before they decide,” says Karyn Twaronite, Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer at EY, No. 4 on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity.

EY’s Global Code of Conduct is shared with all 183,185 employees as they are hired. Everyone at the manger and above level must sign annually that they have read the document and are committed to it.

“That’s incredibly important because there is human behavior and science around signing your name, Twaronite said.

IBM, No. 22 on the DiversityInc Top 50, also makes sure new recruits know that adhering to its policies of inclusion and values are imperative to success at Big Blue.

“From the very time they join, they understand that this is not something new. It is an integral component and part of our DNA and everything we teach our employees is to ensure that our employees are treated equally around the world,” said Rosalia Thomas, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Americas.

“We have a global code of business that really outlines in very specific terms how employees interact with each other, with suppliers, vendors and chief stakeholders. It’s how we respect and value each other,” explained Belinda Grant-Anderson, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion, AT&T, No. 7.

All AT&T employees have to view the code and acknowledge that they read it and understand it. Supervisors also have to acknowledge that their employees are current on ethics and all relevant trainings, Grant-Anderson said.

At Accenture, No. 15, “we’ve found that there are a number best practices for communicating our core values and commitment to inclusion and diversity, including setting clear expectations and sharing consistent messages across multiple channels – from orientation to required training to employee performance feedback,” said Adrian Lajtha, Chief Leadership Officer.

The company, she continued, provides “our geographies with communication toolkits; produce brochures, postcards and videos; post content on our website and have a dedicated portal and blog; host events and celebrations; promote via all internal and external social networks, and sponsor global Inclusion & Diversity Excellence Awards, which recognize outstanding activities that are innovative and repeatable across the company.”

Messaging From the Top

Successful codes of conduct and/or values have messaging from the top and clearly communicate what is important. They don’t use vague terminology and their leaders make it clear they stand by these values.

For example, EY’s code of conduct states in part:

We are committed to working in diverse teams and are personally accountable to other team members for the contributions we make.

It also discusses how the firm values others and values differences.

These values are transmitted globally. They were created under former Chairman and CEO Jim Turley and have been continued under current Chairman and CEO Mark Weinberger.

“Quite often when new leaders come in, they change a lot of the deck chairs and philosophies. This wasn’t touched. It helps us be really grounded and consistent around the world,” Twaronite said.

She emphasized that messaging from top leaders around these values is critical. For example, Americas Managing Partner Steve Howe writes a monthly CEO blog for the 60,000 employees in North America that constantly reinforces the importance of diversity and inclusion to “clients we serve and clients we win. It makes a big difference,” Twaronite said. And Mark Weinberger has an annual chairman’s award that goes to 12 employees globally who are “living our values. It’s a very big deal within our walls.”

At AT&T, the Chairman’s Inclusion Council (led by Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson) reinforces the global code, which filters down to each business-level diversity council, Grant-Anderson said. “The chain of command makes sure everyone who works there (in each business unit) understands how we live it.”

Nielsen, No. 42, similarly ensures the messaging from the top on global values is transmitted throughout the company, said Angela Talton, Senior Vice President, Global Diversity & Inclusion.

“Our CEO, Mitch Barns, speaks globally about diversity and inclusion as a global business imperative,” she said. “In 2015, he announced Diversity & Inclusion is one of our key operating philosophies for the 2015 strategy; and not just Mitch but his direct reports speak to the importance of diversity and inclusion. Our Regional President for Europe, Christophe Calmounac, addressed the top 200 attendees in January sharing the work done in Europe to expand diversity and inclusion.”

“In 2014, they launched 11 Women in Nielsen ERG chapters.  The launches were flawless, well organized and draw large audiences of all employees.  Our Latin America Region launched five ERG chapters in 2014.  Our senior leaders support the diversity and inclusion initiatives with their time and energy.”

Using Resource Groups to Get Message Out

Employee resource groups are valuable ways to emphasize inclusive values at all locations around the world.

At IBM, “we recognize best practices and share them through BRGs (business resource groups) across the globe,” Thomas said. When new resource groups are created, they have a mentoring relationship with older groups to ensure the values are transmitted.

Nielsen employee resource groups operate under four pillars or focus areas:

Recruitment/Retention – Support recruitment efforts and develop networks to increase representation of diverse talent at all levels

Professional Development – Offer professional development opportunities to ensure continuous learning for diverse talent

Community Outreach – Lead and collaborate on community outreach initiatives that align to Nielsen Cares/corporate social responsibility, Public Affairs and Supplier Diversity strategies

Education/Engagement – Provide engagement and education opportunities to members, employees, and clients to drive inclusion and increase cultural competence.

In the cases of all these companies, the groups are cited as valuable means of using inclusive messaging to attract talent, engage workers and create safe workspaces on a global basis.

Sometimes, there has to be patience. For example,Twaronite cited EY’s desire to create LGBT employee resource groups in countries that culturally are less gay-friendly than the U.S., such as many Asian countries. “In a few of those countries, it is illegal to be gay. At EY, we value inclusion and want everyone to feel safe and included. It takes a little longer but we couldn’t mandate that it be done earlier.” However, under the global code of conduct EY does mandate respect in the workplace and that created safe spaces for LGBT employees in the interim. And now LGBT groups are being formed in many of these countries, a growing trend at many Top 50 global companies.


The hardest question for these and other companies is how do you enforce your global values? Employees can’t always be controlled, so what do you do when the values aren’t followed?

All the companies said they have monitoring methods and, if something goes amiss, they intercede with appropriate training and warnings. If it’s found to be egregious, the person is terminated. Every situation is different but the adherence to values is not negotiable.

The companies also said they use their employee engagement survey to ascertain if their messaging from senior leaders is right and if employees, globally, “get the point.”

Here are specific responses that sum up enforcement of values:

From Lajtha at Accenture:

“Monitoring and enforcement are integral to our corporate governance and Ethics & Compliance program. We encourage our people to raise all concerns, by name or anonymously, through multiple channels, which include our 24/7 phone line, our website, HR or Legal groups, his/her supervisor or career counselor. We take every concern that is raised seriously, and appropriate teams review all issues.  Resolution may include additional training and awareness, improvements to internal processes and/or disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment in the most severe cases. We have zero tolerance for retaliation against those who raise good faith concerns, and believe that when people feel comfortable to come forward, we can better identify mistakes, take action, reinforce our culture and further motivate our people.”

From Thomas at IBM:

“When something goes wrong, you have to address it. I don’t think this is rocket science. When anybody does something that is not conducive to values of the company, a phone call needs to be made – what happened, why it happened and why it violates the value. The person needs to be educated. Values are the cornerstone of our company. If anyone is not in alignment on our values, we have to address it. We have to understand what led to this. They are non-negotiable values. They are what makes us IBMers.”