Postal Service first-line supervisors oversee the day-to-day operations that drive services and delivery of mail to the public. As such, they significantly contribute to ensuring customers receive quality service and receive mail and parcels on time and in good condition.
For our audit, a first-line supervisor is defined as the first layer of management directly above the employee. We focused only on customer service, distribution, maintenance, and transportation operations supervisors at retail and delivery and processing facilities. As of September 28, 2018, the Postal Service had a complement of 18,433 permanent first-line supervisors plus an additional 4,394 employees who acted as supervisors detailed for a limited period to perform supervisory duties and responsibilities.
A first-line supervisor has direct responsibility for ensuring work is accomplished by employee efforts. Factors that contribute to the success of first-line supervisors include having an effective organizational structure, a clear understanding of job responsibilities, the right qualifications, an optimal span of control, and adequate training opportunities.
We conducted site visits at 18 facilities (12 retail and delivery facilities and six processing facilities) in three districts within two Postal Service areas. Additionally, we randomly selected 204 acting first-line supervisors to determine if they had Postal Service Forms 1723 authorizing them to become supervisors and validate that they received the correct higher-level pay. We also surveyed 500 randomly selected permanent and acting first-line supervisors and received responses from 217 of them.
Our objective was to assess whether Postal Service first-line supervisors are adequately prepared and positioned to meet operational goals and objectives. Specifically, we assessed first-line supervisor training, responsibilities, and qualifications. We address first-line supervisor organizational structure and span of control in a separate audit.
Opportunities exist for the Postal Service to better prepare and position its first-line supervisors to meet operational goals and objectives. Specifically, the Postal Service did not adequately manage acting first-line supervisor authorization and their higher-level pay or ensure first-line supervisors received adequate training to execute their job responsibilities. Specifically:
- Sixty-two percent of the randomly selected acting first-line supervisors (or 127 of 204) did not have the required documentation (Postal Service Form 1723) authorizing them to become supervisors and receive higher-level pay.
- Eighteen percent of the acting first-line supervisors who had the required documentation (or 14 of 77) did not receive higher-level pay.
- Thirteen percent of permanent first-line supervisors (or 2,251 of 18,433) did not have documented support identifying that they took mandatory supervisory training or other supervisory training courses.
Additionally, neither management nor policy required acting first-line supervisors who worked in a supervisory capacity for at least 30 consecutive days to take mandatory supervisory training. Based on interview results, we concluded that 30 consecutive days is an optimal benchmark for required mandatory training as supervisory tasks and responsibilities are no longer temporary or short-term at that point. Further, the Postal Service did not have updated and descriptive job responsibilities and qualifications for first-line supervisors.
These issues occurred because the Postal Service did not have adequate controls in place to ensure first-line supervisors: 1) are properly assigned and authorized to be supervisors and receive higher-level pay, 2) receive mandatory training or other supervisory training, and 3) have descriptive and updated job responsibilities and qualifications.
Ineffective or nonexistent controls related to supervisory pay, training, job responsibilities, and qualifications increase the risk that first-line supervisors are not prepared and positioned to effectively execute their supervisory duties. This could affect employee performance and morale, thus affecting operations and hindering the Postal Service from meeting its organizational goals. There are also financial implications — we estimated the Postal Service paid $1.9 million in unauthorized higher-level pay in fiscal year 2018.
We recommended management:
- Correct the 14 instances in which acting first-line supervisors did not receive the correct higher-level pay and implement a control to ensure appropriate documentation (Postal Service Forms 1723) is completed, approved, and retained.
- Update Employee and Labor Relations Manual 47, Section 417 to require acting first-line supervisors receive higher-level pay for all workdays documented on the Postal Service Form 1723.
- Implement an oversight control to ensure all permanent first-line supervisors take mandatory supervisory training within a designated period from the appointment.
- Require supervisory training for all acting first-line supervisors who act for over 30 consecutive days.
- Update current first-line supervisor job responsibilities and qualifications and develop a process to perform periodic reviews and updates.