Objective

As an organization, the Postal Service maintains a headquarters and a field office structure that comprises seven areas, 67 districts and more than 31,000 facilities. The field office management structure includes functional managers who oversee the core areas of finance, human resources, marketing, operations program support, and information systems; and operational managers and supervisors who oversee retail, delivery, and mail processing operations.

The Postal Service ranks each district into one of five size categories—Major, Metro, and Levels 1, 2, or 3—with Major being the largest. The category determines the executive administrative schedule (EAS) pay level of the respective district’s functional managers. It also determines the number of support employees in each functional area, which can vary depending on district size. Functional managers at Major, Metro, and Level 1 districts are designated at the EAS-25 pay level; Level 2 managers are EAS-24; and Level 3 managers are EAS-23.

The Postal Service utilizes 14 workload models and/or specific defined criteria to determine the EAS pay level and/or number of authorized positions for operational managers and supervisors at the area, district, and facility levels. Workload is defined as the work done by the position and is based on objective data, such as the number of city and rural routes, projected deliveries, and revenue. This data feeds into each model to calculate authorized positions. Specific defined criteria, such as span of control, related to the ratio of employees to managers and supervisors within a specific function and facility, or it can also include other measures such as plant type. Span of control can vary based on type of work conducted, complexity of the work, and other factors.

Our objective was to assess the management structure at the Postal Service, specifically with regards to how the districts are ranked and how operational manager and supervisor positions are allocated at the area, district, and facility levels (the field). As part of our focus on first-line supervisors, this included an assessment of the first-line supervisor organizational structure and span of control at select facilities. We focused on customer service, distribution, maintenance, and transportation operations supervisors located in retail, delivery, and processing facilities.

To achieve our objective, we reviewed the processes for ranking the 67 districts and for allocating operational managers and supervisors in the field. We also assessed the 14 workload models and defined criteria for the operational management positions at seven judgmentally-selected facilities in two districts. This assessment was used to determine if the model/criteria results were accurate when compared to the current allocation of positions. The positions included supervisors and managers for customer service, distribution operations, transportation operations, and maintenance operations; postmasters; manager of post office operations; and manager of customer service operations.

To drill down further, we also examined first-line supervisor workload models and spans of control at 28 facilities— 12 retail/delivery facilities and 16 processing facilities.

Findings

The Postal Service does not have a standard schedule to reassess staffing models and/or criteria. Also, the authorized staffing is validated and updated as necessary, including how it ranks districts and/or how operational managers and supervisors are authorized. This can impact the EAS pay levels of functional managers and the number of support personnel under each function at the district level. It can also impact the appropriate allocation of operational managers and supervisors assigned to each field location. Additionally, the Postal Service did not ensure processing facilities had the appropriate number of authorized first‑line supervisors.

District Level Rankings

Postal Service districts have not been assessed or re-ranked since 2010, but the changes proposed at that time were not implemented. Moreover, the Postal Service was unable to explain why changes were not implemented, historical insights on when the districts were last ranked prior to 2010, or the process or methodology used.

Each district did have the authorized functional managers; however, management did not provide criteria for the specific number of district-level support personnel—such as retail specialists, financial analysts, and labor relations specialists—required under each functional area. Therefore, we were unable to validate that districts had the correct EAS pay levels or validate the number of support personnel positions for their ranked size.

In May 2019, the Postal Service proposed a new methodology and updated structure, which is in the review process. The new ranking methodology is based on four equally weighted factors—employee complement, total retail revenue, possible delivery points, and mail volume—as well as other complexity factors that are still being determined. Based on their current proposed methodology, 43 of 67 districts (64 percent) would change category rankings.

Using our own analysis, we applied the same four factors—excluding any complexity factors—and determined that 47 of 67 districts (70 percent) would change category rankings. Specifically, the number of districts ranked in each of the five categories would change as follows:

  • Major: Decrease from seven to four.
  • Metro: Increase from two to 19.
  • Level 1: Decrease from 25 to 11.
  • Level 2: Decrease from 29 to 16.
  • Level 3: Increase from four to 17.

An increase or decrease in category rankings can affect the EAS pay level of functional managers at the district.

Operational Management Positions

With regard to the 14 workload models/criteria for operational managers and supervisors, based on our judgmental sample at seven facilities, we determined the number of authorized positions generated by the models/criteria matched the authorized positions for those facilities. However, regarding the first-line supervisor workload models at 28 facilities, we identified the Postal Service did not have the correct number of authorized first-line supervisors at 12 processing facilities, thus impacting spans of control.

Workload Models

There is not a standardized schedule to ensure workload models and designated criteria for operational managers and supervisors are reassessed regularly. Specifically, 11 of the 14 (79 percent) workload models and defined criteria for these positions have not been reviewed or updated in over five years. Since our review, management indicated that they recently conducted assessments of the workload models.

These issues occurred because (1) the methodology to rank the districts was not documented and could not be replicated; and (2) there were no policies, procedures and processes to require continuous monitoring of district category rankings. In addition, district offices did not effectively oversee first-line supervisor authorized positions at the facility level. Further, the Postal Service does not have a policy to periodically review workload models and criteria for operational management positions in the field. Instead, the positions are reviewed individually upon vacancy, prior to posting.

Due to the rapid growth of ecommerce and trend toward digital communication, the Postal Service is delivering fewer letters and more packages to more addresses than it did 10 years ago. These factors impact all aspects of Postal Service operations and should be considered when ranking districts and allocating management positions in the field.

The Postal Service’s proposed new methodology and our ranking analysis incorporated current operational metrics such as mail volume and delivery points. Both methods resulted in category changes for 64 and 70 percent of the districts, respectively. This indicates districts may not be properly categorized as they do not reflect current operating conditions.

When districts are not properly categorized, the Postal Service is at risk of not adequately positioning the appropriate level of management positions in the field. Also, ineffective controls related to span of control increase the risk that the Postal Service is incurring unnecessary costs if the facility is over its authorized first-line supervisor positions. Conversely, the Postal Service may incur additional overtime costs if a facility is under their authorized first-line supervisor positions. Finally, when workload models and criteria are not updated timely, it can directly impact the number of authorized positions for operational managers and supervisors at the facility level. Specifically, some locations could be allotted more or less positions than needed and some EAS pay levels could be higher or lower than required.

Recommendations

We recommended management implement an updated district ranking methodology and reassess district rankings based on the approved methodology; formalize guidance to address roles and responsibilities, frequency, and methodology for the district ranking process; implement an oversight process to ensure district offices regularly monitor and maintain authorized first-line supervisor positions; and formalize a regular review process of workload models and criteria, for each operational manager and supervisor position.

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Comments (18)

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  • anon

    I live in North Carolina. For the last few years I have been ordering everyday products using usps. At least 20 -30 packages a week. Now things show up at the Greensboro distribution center and sit for a10 or so days before going to my local post office which is very close. What is going on there. Maybe they need hire a bunch of people and start over. It’s very poor service even with the COVID BS excuse. FedEx, ups, and amazon seem to be getting it done. What is going on. It seems like the usps is being ran into the ground. Even websites are recommending using another service. You should take a look at usps Greensboro distribution. They are making you look like a joke. Also is there going to be refunds available soon for priority mail shipping that took 2 week?

    Dec 01, 2020
  • anon

    More field management is NOT the solution. Management needs to be trained in how to manage the people. More carriers are needed to reduce overtime. Why can't Mondays mail load be balanced with Tuesday. Mondays has overtime and Tuesdays hasn't enough mail to keep carriers productive.

    Oct 28, 2020
  • anon

    The article on management structure is not clear as to who is first level contact second level contact third level contact so on so forth. This needs concise positions who public can contact.

    Oct 02, 2020
  • anon

    Grossly understaffed. Not enough supervisors. Not enough training. No consistentsy. Outdated equipment. Poor management choices like they'd rather out they lazy friend or family in leadership vs someone who knows and cares about the job then expect you to train them! A lot fraternizing... publicly between management and employees. Management is moved to better positions after messing up; instead of being held accountable so it's just recycled people that started the mess to begin with. Yes they prefund. That's Congress move as well as them controlling rates. USPS is not a business. It is a SERVICE. It was never meant for profit. Just to break even. There needs to be a major overhaul from top to bottom. Not that they bad people but they stopped believing. Someone, not dejoy, needs to give them their love of mail back then they'll fight harder to keep USPS alive

    Aug 25, 2020
  • anon

    Gene is dead on. 100%. Too bad that no one at the post office that will read this neither cares or knows how to bring about change.

    Oct 28, 2020
  • anon

    Really? This is unrealistic and ridiculous

    Aug 12, 2020
  • anon

    A dollar short and a day late. The ideas are solid but the Postal Service reacts far to slow as compared with the private sector. The Postal Service needs a higher ratio of management to employee at the ground level.

    Aug 03, 2020
  • anon

    Is it true that congress takes 5.5 billion per year to pre fund pensions? Is the usps bleeding now due to the government shutdown of business. It would seem there would be a lot less letter mail and perhaps more packages during this period. Is the usps looking for a stimulus or loans like other industry's that have been hard hit? I am just trying to better understand what we are dealing with. Regards, Steve

    May 08, 2020
  • anon

    The USPS has and still is very top heavy at the HQ Level. I’ve never understood why this has never been addressed ever. At the area level, a serious restructuring needs to happen. At the plant level, our TANS is only a 23, but manages over 150 employees while the MIPS is a 25 with maybe 10 employees! The ratio 25:1 is absurd and that too needs to be addressed As well.

    Mar 28, 2020
  • anon

    The SDO ratio is not a one size fits all for every plant. For example, the Cheyenne P&DC is authorized 2 SDOs to cover a three tour operation. Two SDOs can only cover 10 out of the 21 shifts per week. In order to cover as well as possible, they have an OSS spending 75% of his day supervising the floor. This puts him in a situation where he can't keep up with his own job responsibilities.

    Mar 25, 2020
  • anon

    Why are there District and Area offices anymore, in the first place? They are just a multi level management group of power, doing nothing but micromanaging orders from Headquarters to those below them. In today's world, there is no reason that Headquarters cannot deal directly with each Postmaster or plant manager, and let them run their offices directly, with their local management staff. The money that could be saved by this move alone would be more than enough to take care of the USPS's monetary losses, even with the prefunding as it is. This is not just a post to knock management, but it is a post to try to streamline things, and make them more efficient, while saving money.

    Mar 25, 2020
  • anon

    Successful implementation of standards and correct methodology would be an empty accomplishment as long as management at every level has no CONSIDERATION, no RESPECT, no HONESTY. USPS craft employees who are currently choosing to work despite “Stay at Home” orders are being treated as disposable.

    Mar 25, 2020
  • anon

    Why didn't this study look at the area offices or headquarters? Both units are grossly overstaffed and under-worked, as opposed to the field.

    Mar 25, 2020
  • anon

    This report contains considerable information. Two additional items may be worth noting regarding field supervision, etc. First, the SWCs in my opinion do not adequately take into account the fact that postmasters, and supervisors are at one point or another out of the office on the street each day performing carrier observations as part of their regular responsibilities. This time is not truly captured as part of the employee to supervisor ratio. Street observations may also leave many offices without an onsite supervisor to address customer inquiries, or make decisions that clerks or carriers may not be experienced in answering even though they may do their best. This leaves clerks or carriers in an awkward position; the customer with a negative view of the brand; and a postmaster or supervisor in a position of followup that always includes apologizing to the customer for not being able to provide service to them the first time; a situation no business wants to be in when customers have alternatives for them to spend their retail or drop ship dollars. Secondly, district operations also have many positions that require driving to postal locations regularly to perform tasks that cannot be performed over the phone. Depending on the size of the district, the weather, and of course the traffic, the volume of office visits cannot necessarily be compared among the districts even by their category; Major, Metro, etc. There needs to be variables to allow for the extremes; LA and NYC traffic to name but one.

    Mar 24, 2020
  • anon

    The process is flawed in rounding and misses the concept of operational coverage. In Tacoma, a plant with two main shifts and MVS, has two (2) Transportation supervisors. A transportation supervisor should have a ratio of 1:25 per your report. The methodology says they are overstaffed and should only have one (1) supervisor. This leads to a single supervisor with a 1:43 ratio (your number), trying to cover two shifts. Apparently the logic is "round down". This makes no sense to me, having actually been Plant Manager in Tacoma 20 years ago. I would not want to be that single supervisor responsible for 43 employees over two shifts over six days a week.

    Mar 20, 2020
  • anon

    Having worked in a few facilities and different functions, the methodology is always to round down. I've seen multiple staffing scenarios for either craft employees or EAS where being one employee under in a formula results in losing multiple positions. Even the methodology for earning customer service supervisors typically has extremely flawed data due to the fact that HR folks who are supposed to oversee it don't understand the structure of who oversees which facility. I've seen where they refuse to allow an actual earned supervisor based on workload because they 'weren't aware' that the customer service EAS were responsible for the retail window in a plant facility. Not only that, they decided that even though it was earned after calculating correctly, that because it was close to the threshold of being under they wanted to see if it would continue to remain earned. It took nearly a year to finally get that earned position. ** I think this is important to highlight because when you look through this report you see that it primarily states where there are overages. There is a good reason why these things end up happening, it is because the folks who are supposed to oversee this end up cutting in places that don't make sense while we get to witness multiple ad-hoc detail positions (that wouldn't exist otherwise) in district/area that are multiple layers above being involved in overseeing folks who touch the mail. I find it interesting as well that maintenance is so frequently highlighted in this report considering the timing of the MS1 TL6 implementation. Nearly every plant that isn't a lead plant for the district will now 'earn' less employees and thus less EAS based on this (which is quite the double punishment considering non-lead plants are going to end up actually supervising the same number of employees when they have to deal with scenarios involving the field maintenance employees while the lead plant hours away will actually earn the workload credit for those employees). Knowing how terrible the data/logic/methodology/implementation is to these staffing models, especially how poorly and rushed the MS1 TL6 was done (similar to the F1 scheduler) this just goes to confirm again that the concern isn't about reality of what would allow for what would reasonably accomplish a particular set of goals, such as maintenance of facilities/equipment. Instead this furthers that the particular staffing model becomes the goal despite whether the model itself was actually realistic in allowing the USPS to accomplish reliable prompt service. So we'll end up seeing even more ad-hoc details all over as a result I'm supposing when multiple things aren't getting effectively accomplished per the other audits that get put out here.

    Mar 23, 2020
  • anon

    There are many District plants with too many management employees. For example, South Suburban has a seniour MDO, lead mdo and 2 other titled mdos. Then there are a few acting mdos. All this in a plant that only processes letters and flats. In plant support has about 15 employees here more than supervisors on the floor.

    Mar 19, 2020
  • anon

    Not sure what is the need for 67 districts. In some of the major cities(Dallas, Chicago, etc) you have multiple districts within commuting distance. Add that to the Area offices and huge HQ domiciled in those places. Many unnecessary jobs if you ask me.

    Mar 19, 2020