Due to the impact of first‑line supervisors on Postal Service operations, the OIG sought to gain an understanding of the structure, footprint within the organization, and investments made in first‑line supervisors. As such, key human capital and performance data related to first‑line supervisors was examined to assess patterns of historical performance, evaluate comparability across various categories, and identify relationships between first‑line supervisors and key performance metrics. This white paper provides the results of our assessment, including analyses of key operational, performance, and cost metrics that impact Postal Service operations.
The Postal Service delivers mail to more addresses, in a larger geographical area, than any other post in the world. On average, each day in fiscal year (FY) 2018, the Postal Service processed and delivered 493 million pieces to 159 million delivery points, while serving about 4 million customers in its delivery and retail locations. To meet this demand, the Postal Service has a network of over 620,000 employees at more than 34,000 facilities nationwide.
Like any organization, employees are instrumental in ensuring the Postal Service meets its goals and objectives – ultimately getting mail to customers. With labor costs (including compensation and benefits, unfunded retirement benefits, retiree health benefits, and worker compensation) constituting about 76 percent of the Postal Service’s operating expenses, employee management has a significant impact on both the operations and financial condition of the organization. To effectively manage a workforce of the Postal Service’s size, there needs to be a strong organizational structure and appropriate investments made in the supervisor ranks.
In general, a supervisor is responsible for the productivity and actions of a small group of employees. Within the Postal Service, supervisors play a significant role in ensuring that customers receive quality service and that mail and parcels are received on time and in good condition. To drill-down further, a first‑line supervisor has direct responsibility for ensuring that employees accomplish their work. For this white paper, a first‑line supervisor is defined as the first layer of management directly above the craft employee.
As of September 28, 2018, there were 22,827 first‑line supervisors at the Postal Service. For the purposes of our work, we focused only on customer service, distribution, maintenance, and transportation operations supervisors located in delivery/retail and processing facilities. This includes 18,433 permanent supervisors and 4,394 acting supervisors1 detailed into the position for a limited period to perform supervisory duties and responsibilities. Of these 22,827 first‑line supervisors:
■ Seventy-two percent (16,531 of 22,827) were customer service supervisors who managed customer service and delivery operations, and
■ Twenty-eight percent (6,296 of 22,827) were processing supervisors who managed processing and distribution operations.
Postal Service first‑line supervisors are at the core of bringing operations together, maintaining financial viability, managing a geographically dispersed workforce, and promoting trust of the customers. In FY 2018, the Postal Service’s first‑line supervisor workhours made up three percent of the total workhours incurred; however, they managed 76 percent of the total workhours, and 84 percent of total overtime hours incurred. This translates to the first‑line supervisor directly managing over $21.6 billion in incurred workhours and an additional $4.5 billion in total overtime costs in FY 2018.
As first‑line supervisors have a significant impact on employees, from engagement to grievance activity, having the right organizational structure and a sufficient span of control is imperative. As the number of first‑line supervisors have increased over a five-year period, the number of employees they manage has slightly decreased over that period. This indicates that first‑line supervisors are managing fewer employees, reducing and possibly strengthening the overall span of control.
Following the issuance of this white paper, the OIG plans to conduct further audit work to assess strategies and programs in place related to first‑line supervisor hiring and retention, training and development, and performance.