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Internal Culture: Attracting young talent through workplace culture

American Traffic Safety Services Association – Save the Associations Vol. 3

The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), located in Virginia, is looked to as a national industry leader because of their cutting edge efforts. While the association itself was not seeing a membership decline, they did notice a workforce shortage trend among their members.

“Our association was not seeing a decline in membership, but members were coming to us with workforce issues,” shared Jessica Scheyder, Director of Training at ATSSA.

Instead of telling their members how to appeal to the younger generations, ATSSA decided to make changes at the association so they could show members how to create a culture that attracts young professionals.

A New Internal Culture

To help create this new culture, ATSSA tasked new talent and current employees to collaboratively examine the workplace culture and identify ways to improve it. They considered everything from desk space to company-wide communication.

The result of this hard work is astounding. Today when you listen to ATSSA employees describe their workplace, you would think they are describing a Silicon Valley start-up versus an association founded in 1966.  Here are just a few of the improvements made at ATSSA:

  1. Team Communication: New communication tools have been added to foster a collaborative work environment

  2. Workspace Expansion: Employees can now choose to work at their desk, treadmill desks, or at any of the new community lounges

  3. Extracurricular Activities: New clubs and teams have been created by employees to help build relationships and keep work fun

“Employees who have worked at ATSSA for years have said it feels like a completely new workplace,” said Scheyder.

A New Recruitment Tactic

This new culture has had an unexpected effect on recruitment. Association leaders had hoped the changes would lead to attracting the younger generations, which it has, but it also led to a wider talent pool overall. ATSSA used to focus only on looking locally for talent, but the flexibility the association gained with the culture changes has allowed them to recruit talent from farther away.

They have seen an increase in new hires from Washington D.C., northern Virginia, and the Richmond area. Employees are willing to commute because of ATSSA’s desirable culture, benefits, and compensation package. One benefit of particular appeal is ATSSA’s telecommute policy. After an onboarding period, many positions can telecommute part-time, and the association continually evaluates telecommuting options as technology and communication platforms allow.

Continued Feedback

The early culture shift successes made it an easy decision for ATSSA leadership to make these changes permanent. The association now has dedicated teams and resources to ensure the positivity continues.

Every year the association sends out an employee culture survey and all raw data is shared with employees. Culture improvements continue to evolve as a result of survey findings. One notable change is the new “dress for your day” dress code. Knowing the association is truly listening to its employees has cultivated a positive culture at ATSSA. “It also spurred a sense of ownership,” added Scheyder.

The Advice

ATSSA’s advice for other associations is simple – just do it! It seems scary to change culture and there will be many challenges along the way, but the positive changes are worth it. Listening to and empowering employees to foster a positive workplace culture reaps many rewards.


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