Objective

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s effectiveness in reducing non-career employee turnover and evaluate underlying reasons for non-career employee turnover.

The Postal Service hires non-career employees to supplement its regular workforce and reduce staffing costs. Non-career employees are temporary workers who do not receive the same employee benefits as career employees, are not always guaranteed a set schedule, and can work from one to seven days per week. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the Postal Service had about 136,000 non career employees which represented about 21 percent of its 633,000 employees.

The Postal Service has four non-career employee labor designations or crafts:

  ■ Mail handler assistant position — unloads and moves mail in plants.

  ■ Postal support employee position — processes mail and sells postage at post offices.

  ■ City carrier assistant position — delivers mail on designated city routes.

  ■ Rural carrier associate position — delivers mail on rural routes.

The Postal Service establishes a non-career employee turnover goal as part of its annual National Performance Assessment (NPA). This goal is used to measure non-career employee turnover to help reduce the Postal Service’s cost of training non-career employees. In FY 2019, the goal was 34.08 percent.

We conducted site visits at 14 district offices, 12 post offices, and two processing and distribution centers (P&DC). These visits represented all seven Postal Service areas and included sites with higher and lower unemployment and non-career employee turnover rates.

Findings

Over the last four years, Postal Service Human Resources Headquarters (HR‑HQ) management took actions to reduce non-career employee turnover. Although the annual turnover decreased from 42.8 percent in FY 2016 to 38.5 percent in FY 2019, it still exceeded the NPA goal of 34.8 percent in FY 2016 and 34.08 percent in FY 2019. Also, the FY 2019 turnover rate exceeded the FYs 2017 and 2018 rates. In FY 2019, the city carrier assistant positions had the highest turnover at 45.8 percent while the postal support employee positions had the lowest turnover at 34.4 percent.

To meet the FYs 2018 and 2019 34.08 percent NPA non-career employee turnover goals, the Postal Service would have had to retain almost 3,000 more non‑career employees in FY 2018 and almost 5,900 more non‑career employees in FY 2019. We calculated this would have reduced the cost of onboarding and training by about $4.1 million in FY 2018 and about $9.6 million in FY 2019 based on management’s estimate of total onboarding and training costs.

Management estimated the Postal Service saved about $8 billion in labor cost from FYs 2016 to 2019 by employing non-career employees. However, they did not measure the cost savings associated with the NPA non-career employee turnover performance. On average in FY 2019, non-career employees who left, worked for the Postal Service for about 81 days. Measuring the potential cost savings associated with reducing non-career employee turnover would help ensure management focuses on improvement.

Also, non-career employee turnover could be improved if HR-HQ management developed a single comprehensive strategic plan for recruiting, hiring, and retaining non-career employees. HR-HQ management developed individual strategies to assist in non-career employee retention at the local level. The strategies included developing engagement training for all employees and revising onboarding training to better address the needs of new non‑career employees.

However, during our site visits, we found inconsistent application of HR‑HQ strategies. Specifically, at seven of the 14 district offices and four of the 14 facilities we visited, management said they had not received training on retaining non-career employees.

Because HR-HQ management did not develop a single comprehensive national strategic plan for recruiting, hiring, and retaining non-career employees of all four crafts, districts developed local strategies to help reduce non-career employee turnover. We found the following examples of local strategies at the 14 districts we visited to help reduce turnover.

  • At 11 district offices, management said they required managers to obtain district office approval prior to terminating non-career employees. They did this to ensure non-career employees received performance feedback and were allowed an opportunity to improve their performance before being terminated.
  • One district office created managerial policies and procedures for onboarding and training non-career employees. The managers were required to certify completion of the procedures.
  • One district office required managers to personally greet new non-career employees, take them on a tour of the facility, and introduce them to other staff when they arrived at the facility.
  • One district office provided refresher training to all non-career employees after their first 60 days on the job.

These strategies could be incorporated into a comprehensive strategic plan for all districts to follow.

We also found that HR-HQ personnel e-mailed a voluntary exit survey to non‑career employees who left the Postal Service and made summary results available to local management with access to the Postal Service’s information technology network. From FY 2016 to June 30, 2019, about 28 percent of the non-career employees responded to the exit survey. In FY 2016, the survey’s top two reasons for non-career employees leaving the Postal Service were “Lack of Schedule Flexibility” and “Physical Demands”. From FY 2017 to June 30, 2019, the top two reasons were “Lack of Schedule Flexibility” and “Didn’t Like Supervisor”.

Management at 10 of the 14 district offices we visited were aware of the voluntary non-career employee exit survey and six of the 10 district offices said they used the results to improve non-career employee turnover. However, they were not provided any guidance on how to use the data. We also found that six district offices said they performed their own exit surveys.

HR-HQ management said they monitored the reasons for non-career employees leaving the Postal Service and used the data to deploy strategies to address them. However, they had not established any nationwide processes to ensure non-career employee exit survey results were reviewed by district office personnel and appropriate corrective action plans were developed. Establishing a nationwide policy on use of this exit survey information would better enable effective and consistent actions to address non-career employee turnover.

A comprehensive national strategic plan and procedures would help ensure management consistently focuses on reducing non-career employee turnover, provides better oversight, and ensures best practices and feedback is shared.

Recommendations

We recommended HQ-HR management:

  • Measure the cost savings associated with the NPA non-career employee turnover performance.
  • Develop a comprehensive non-career employee national turnover strategic plan and procedures to provide more effective management oversight. The plan and procedures should focus on achieving measurable results to reduce non-career employee turnover at the local level by developing action plans to address exit survey results and implement district best practices nationwide.

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Comments (10)

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  • anon

    Having recently completed onboarding and city carrier academy in the Greater Boston District I can provide some anectdotal feedback. I am not sure, if course if my experience is typical. 1. Candidate selection mixed. A number of candidates seemed to be at the low end in terms of potential labor value. Most notably there were many older candidates. I would guess the median age for my cohort was at least 40, meaning half were older, including some individuals in their 50s and 60s. While age discrimination should be avoided it makes little sense to select so many candidates for an entry level physical position who are older. 2. The starting pay for CCAs is not really competitive for the area. $17.29 may be great for Louisiana but not for New York or Boston or San Francisco. To attract and retain quality candidates pay should be negotiated at the district or regional level rather than nationwide. 3. Three days of orientation (whole first week) in district office (Boston) were useless and demoralising. Morose representatives were unable to answer basic questions about the job clearly and correctly at orientation. Other candidates in my cohort agreed with this assessment. Everything covered at orientation was re-covered at carrier academy and done so accurately and more efficiently. Save money on on boarding process by eliminating week of orientation. Driver training / qualification could be the first day of carrier academy. 3. Carrier Academy was excellent and the instructors were some of the best I have had for any job. In contrast to the people who did orientation they had high energy and great knowledge and teaching ability. 4. I have not started work yet but from what I have heard from other people working conditions vary greatly from office to office. Develop a process to evaluate and ensure greater uniformity in office managers. From my experience so far from job shadow day it seems that I landed in a good office. From talking to other candidates it seems some could tell their workplaces would be challenging already based on their job shadow day. 5. Provide a faster path to career and a flatter wage structure with fewer wage steps. People who are better compensated and who are happy with their schedule or station are likely to stay and work harder. While experience is important, I think for a competent carrier work efficiency gains from experience should plateau after a year or two since to job is relatively simple compared to others. There is no reason in my opinion that a career carrier with 15 years should be making twice the base wage doing the exact same job as a more junior employee. If the carrot on the end of the stick is closer better employees will stick around...

    Mar 07, 2020
  • anon

    I am concerned that the non-career employees who are delivering mail are people I will rely on if I have to confine myself during the coronavirus outbreak. I live next to a county with multiple cases. I am over 60 with a chronic lung problem that places me at high risk for death. If I spend the next several months at home, I will be relying on the post office. I understand from a friend (also over 60) who works at a nearby post office that many non-career employees work long stressful weeks and are not paid if they are sick. Are we making a perfect germ delivery service with that policy? Are you working with the CDC and do they understand this issue?

    Mar 07, 2020
  • anon

    I work in Pittsboro NC Its hard when you get a new sub and try and teach them a route but they only want to give them 3 days to learn the route. Then the managers want yell at them when they mess up if people are in these management positions they need to know how to lead by example not berate a person for trying to learn a craft. Most often the new hire is set up for failure rather then success you will not keep people if the continue to feel like they fail all the time. with fail after fail of not making the get back time due to a route that was counted during a hurricane. No new hire will make time standards and its depressing watching them get upset with them self. I tell them over and over not to worry about it but I still have my subs quit.

    Feb 28, 2020
  • anon

    I was never even given feed back on how my performance was. I have applied to several PSE jobs in different places and still I haven't received any email. It says in process. Pre-hire list. And I was never about the survey. I found it in my email after I no longer worked for the USPS.

    Feb 28, 2020
  • anon

    Academy instructors said, and I have read in other sources, that the USPS spends $5,000 to train each new employee. If turnover was 5,900 (x$5,000) in 2019, the cost was $29,500,000.00, not $9.6 million, as stated in this report. For 2018, if turnover was 3,000 ($5,000), the cost was $15,000,000.00, not $4.1 million, as also stated in this report. That's a difference of almost $31,000,000.00! So, why did management supply inaccurate figures of $1,336.66 per person for 2918 and $1,627.11 per person for 2019? Or, why are new employees told a figure of $5,000 if it is inaccurate? It seems at a cost of almost $44,500,000.00 over two years, the USPS should not be so quick to remove so many promising employees during probation. After all, they did pass the exam, are making progress, and are eager to work. Maybe manager bonuses should be based on employment retention, instead of time shaved off a carrier's route. Taking away money in the form of overtime and giving it to managers is a very negative proposition and formula for failure, not to mention morale deflator. You're welcome.

    Feb 19, 2020
  • anon

    Correct...Thank you...

    Mar 05, 2020
  • anon

    Good morning After reading this findings, I examined that most of this turnover is due to a lack of leadership and toxic leadership in the post office, I’m currently work in that state of Florida and the two post offices that I work the Postmaster do not care or have a sense of ownership, they only care about their retirement and not going 110%, they assume that the training that is given by the HR when you arrive at the postal service is complete, workers in the offices also “hate” veteran’s with education and leadership styles that are not even common to their own, standards are not meet, blaming scenarios are the only thing in the day, no ownership by them, the only topic that is on a daily basis is “my retirement” in my experience I saw postmaster leaving the offices unattended (1-person in the premises) and remotely survey the office from home, 95% of the time they leave 1pm with no guidance or leadership in the work place, one person can not hold the office and be effective or productive by them self, On the other hand Distric Managers only care about the numbers not the employees, they demand and also work you two steps up, but with the pay established by Your craft! Most of them are only a “figure” In the district, I believe having the right qualifications and the right person in the seat will benefit the district with common sense and accretive leadership style. Some of us trying to change the political situation in the post office and retaliation is the word in the street, in my case I have more certifications than the District’s Manager and perhaps more education credential than most of the postmaster in the area. It seem that the good Ol boy system is in full effect here in Florida, some of the non career personnel see this issues and decide to venture in a job that give some incentive and or benefits and most of all make a career out of it in the long run, I was a Non Career individual and in NC I was segregated of advancement, always shut down in position that I apply, and most of all my conditions as a Veteran, as a non career I saw the discrimination in the work place with my own eyes, regular employee telling to the non career that you have to leave early because you are affecting my hours of work, sometimes quoting regulations that do not exist, deprive you of work in a seance of you only garantee one hr of work, and not even schedule you in the week because that have to have their hrs before you, that’s why most of the non career seek other employment and the system do not support him or her to seek a better position or granting hrs of work so they can remain in their position, sometimes they schedule them to outrageous hrs like 1am to 4am and return 2pm until closings! Is an outrageous way to get rid of personnel, and mainly the leadership don’t care,

    Feb 19, 2020
  • anon

    Hello, Luis. Thanks for your comment. The best thing to do would be to file an online complaint with our Hotline at https://www.uspsoig.gov/hotline. This will allow us to look into the matter for you.

    Feb 19, 2020
  • anon

    Part of the reason I retired was because of management. When supervisors are allowed to to work for two or three hours a day for a four day work week it shows poor management. When individuals are constantly harassed by management for not making a fictitious time it wears on your as a carrier. Having a schedule certainly improves your attitude.

    Feb 19, 2020
  • anon

    Most all of the CCAs I have known have complained they are paid too little to put up with the mistreatment by management they must endure. Besides the lack of dignity and respect by management experienced across the Postal Service, (refer to our Employee Engagement scores), inadequate staffing causes the inability of management to provide flexible schedules to the CCAs. Creation of more full time careeer positions will allow management to give CCAs the time off or reduced hours they prefer. A lower percentage in the total complement of non-career employees would also reduce the wait time to become a career employee.

    Feb 17, 2020