In March 2015, February and October 2016, the U.S. Postal Service administered Postal Pulse surveys to evaluate employee engagement. These surveys replaced the Voice of the Employee survey used since 1998 and included Gallup, Inc. Employee Engagement Survey questions as well as one additional question about employee satisfaction.
The surveys’ results indicated that postal employee engagement improved slightly over the course of the three surveys administered in March 2015 and in February and October 2016. The resulting grand means were 3.16, 3.24, and 3.25 out of 5, respectively. However, the Postal Service ranked in the bottom one percent of scores for all organizations Gallup surveyed in each of the three survey administrations. Although these results are concerning, the Postal Service is taking action to address employee engagement.
In July 2015, the postmaster general emphasized employee engagement as a top priority for the Postal Service. In January 2016, management created an employee engagement team within the Human Resources function, which subsequently developed eight engagement activities: 1) continuation of the Postal Pulse survey, 2) action planning, 3) training for managers and supervisors, 4) an employee engagement website, 5) employee engagement publications, 6) promoting employee engagement via multimedia communications and outreach activities, 7) an awards program for those who contribute to an engaging workplace, and 8) employee feedback mechanisms.
On May 19, 2016, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota requested a study to assess the morale of Postal Service employees and identify actions that could improve employee engagement and morale.
Our objective was to assess Postal Service Human Resources’ employee engagement activities to determine whether they are effective in enhancing employee engagement. We also reviewed employee comments on social media sites to gauge employee sentiments.
What the OIG Found
The engagement activities implemented in January 2016, address the three key drivers of engagement and areas of concern identified from Postal Pulse survey results. We recognize that these activities are in progress and there can be lag time for engagement activities to take effect in an organization. However, we identified opportunities to enhance the execution of three specific engagement activities: action planning, assessing employee comments on social media, and leveraging data correlation between employee engagement and business outcomes.
With regards to action planning, managers and supervisors at 81 percent (35,664 of 43,900) of business units developed and implemented action plans to address the March 2015 survey results. However, in February 2016 the percentage decreased to 50 percent (21,950 of 43,749). This decrease occurred because the Postal Service did not require action plans and made the process voluntary.
According to Gallup, managers who develop action plans generally double the level of engagement in their employees compared to those who do not document their action plans. In addition, without action plans, the Postal Service cannot assess the progress of activities implemented to increase employee engagement timely or have a measurement of accountability for management.
The Postal Service also did not monitor or respond to comments on external employee-focused social media sites. Best practices indicated that employers should respond to comments to demonstrate that employees’ opinions matter.
The Postal Service’s Corporate Communications group oversees its social media strategy and focuses on customer comments. This group did not monitor or respond to comments on external employee-focused social media platforms. However, Corporate Communications stated they acquired social media management software in May 2017 to monitor comments on external employee-focused social media sites.
Finally, there was a relationship between employee engagement, as measured by Postal Pulse survey results, and 21 Postal Service business outcomes. For example, strong employee engagement correlates with:
- Timeliness of delivery of standard on-time mail, indicating districts with highly engaged employees delivered standard mail on-time at a greater percentage than those districts with low engagement.
- Low staffing ratios (number of carriers assigned per route) and unscheduled leave occurrences, indicating districts with highly engaged employees accomplished their work using fewer carriers per route and experienced less unscheduled leave.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management require managers and supervisors to develop action plans and implement a process to monitor and assess their progress and expand the Postal Service’s social media strategy to include a process for monitoring and responding to comments on external employee-focused social media websites.