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article|February 05, 2016

Can Employees Decipher Your Code of Conduct?

Transform your company’s code of conduct to drive engagement and understanding. 


  • Many companies are using simpler language and creating interactive, digital codes of business conduct.
  • Employees find these new formats easier to understand and more engaging.
  • An ethics and compliance professional shares her experience making her company's code of business conduct more user-friendly.   

A company’s code of conduct is a critical piece of content. After all, it’s one of the few documents all employees are required to read and abide by. But the topics addressed in most codes  are extremely complex and written in terms only lawyers can understand. The result? Lengthy documents that are tough for most employees to read, let alone understand. 

Some companies, however, are taking bold steps to change that. They’re simplifying the language in their code and producing meaningful, engaging content experiences for employees. These new experiences are online and interactive, and both employees and employers are reaping the benefits. 

Recently, we talked to Ashley Coselli, an ethics and compliance professional who drove such an initiative at Noble Energy. Here, she discusses why the company transformed its code, how it was done, and the lessons learned along the way.

Designory: Tell me about the employees at your company.

Ashley Coselli: Noble Energy has more than 2,000 employees globally. We are headquartered in Houston and have major operations in the United States, Israel, Cyprus and West Africa. Our workforce ranges from employees new to the working world to seasoned professionals – and the vast majority are tech-savvy.  

What prompted you to consider taking a new approach to your Code?

We have in-person training worldwide on our code of business conduct, which provides a dynamic learning experience.  But the old code itself was in hard copy, written in legalese and not very easy to follow or understand. Noble Energy prides itself on being unique and innovative, and we said, “This isn’t cutting it.”  We wanted to create something that captured our message but was user-friendly and engaging. We wanted to reach out and grab our audience and deliver a knock-your-socks-off experience. 

What format options did you consider for your new code?

We looked at other codes inside and outside of our industry to identify best practices.  Most were standard .pdfs; we wanted something more.  Then, we came across the Cisco code of conduct.  We really liked its interactivity. Instead of being a tough-to-read document that didn’t have any depth, it seemed to be alive. It helped move the readers through the content.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered along the way?

There wasn’t a particular challenge that I found most difficult.  We decided to completely overhaul the Code and combined the overhaul with creating the ebook.  It was a huge project.  We looked at every single section of the Code, then added topics and content and ensured that it was written in a way that fit with an interactive format.  It wasn’t as if we just did a little word-smithing. We took a long, static document, re-wrote it, added content and rearranged it; the Code was a completely different document from before. It was new, cutting edge and tailored to Noble Energy.

Given that your company has an international workforce, what special considerations did you have to take into account?

Some of the places where we do business are relatively remote, so with anything web-based, we have to be cognizant of Internet access and bandwidth. For the most part, the infrastructure is good, but you never know where we might go. So if the Internet is down or slow, or if we expand to an area where the internet infrastructure might still be developing, we have a static version of the Code that is in a new and visually appealing format that contains the same information as the ebook and has the same feel and branding.  We have also translated the Code into the local languages where we operate.  The Spanish, French, Greek and Hebrew versions of the Code are available through a language selector in the ebook.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from employees on the new format?

Our code is available on our external website, anyone can view it. We’ve had potential hires, third parties, and some of our business partners around the world tell us how great it is, especially where we embedded videos of our leadership team talking about our values. Employees have told me that it made the message “come alive,” which was hugely impactful. It makes a strong impression about what Noble stands for, what our leadership and executives stand for, and what they expect everyone who works at Noble to stand for. 

Because the ebook is online, you’re able to capture usage metrics. What key learnings have there been? 

The metrics have shown us that people from all over the world are viewing this. We have employees in Africa, far-east Asia, and throughout Europe, and we know that they’re engaging with it. The metrics also helps us determine whether people are viewing all the content or only parts. If we have zero views of a certain page or section, then we know there’s a problem, or the information is too hidden or complicated. We also know what kind of devices people are using to access the code, which is helpful. We intended the e-book to be viewed on desktops, laptops, and tablets, but it’s also being viewed on smartphones. 

What is the most important thing companies should take into account when they’re considering overhauling their code?

I think a lot of codes are difficult to digest.  They tend to be written by lawyers, so they’re heavy on legalese. I think it can be a challenge for companies to put their ethical obligations and expectations into words people understand. You need to ask, “How can we make this something everybody can read and understand?” It means translating that legalese into something that is clear and concise. 

Why do you think it’s important for companies to consider transforming their codes?

In this age of social media, we are used to getting our information in rapid fire, small, fast-paced snippets. Then we get to work and we’re supposed to digest long, voluminous information.  It seems like that format is foreign: a long wordy, three sentence paragraph that could be a page. That’s hard to digest when we’re used to getting information with video, with color, and in a more dynamic way. 

How do you see your code evolving?

Coselli: I’m sure we’ll need to re-evaluate our Code to ensure that its meeting the company’s needs, as well to make sure it’s more mobile-friendly. And because technology is changing so rapidly, we’ll likely have to make other changes as the technology evolves. 

Any final words of wisdom for peers who are tasked with similar projects? 

As a lawyer, we have a tendency to be paper-driven and very wordy.  The ebook gives companies, legal departments, or whatever department owns a Code of Conduct the ability to think outside of the traditional communication channels, paper and text. Don’t be afraid to embrace and utilize the different multimedia opportunities that are available. 

Designory has built digital codes of conducts for various clients - see the case studies 

Interview conducted by Julie Bleasdale, Director of Digital Strategy

Ashley Coselli is a Compliance Attorney at Noble Energy. 


Julie Bleasdale
Director, Digital Strategy


Julie Bleasdale
Director, Digital Strategy