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.
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.
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.
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.