Span of control is defined as the number of subordinates in an organization who report directly to one supervisor and is determined by evaluating several factors. Some examples of these factors include, but are not limited to nature of work, degree of risk in the work for the organization, similarity of activities performed, and qualifications, experience and geographic location of subordinates. The U.S. Postal Service has established a span of control target of one supervisor for every 25 craft employees (1:25 ratio).
Recently, Patrick R. Donahoe, the Postal Service’s Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, asked the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review the use of supervisor workhours and span of control at mail processing facilities. The Postal Service has two span of control targets for these mail processing facilities. In addition to the 1:25 ratio for craft employees, there is a 1:22 ratio for number of manager of distribution operations and supervisors to craft employees.
For this audit, we only looked at the span of control for supervisors to craft employees. We determined that from fiscal year (FY) 2010 through FY 2012 the Postal Service reduced supervisor workhours in relation to craft employee workhours by 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively. However, the Postal Service did not always achieve its span of control target. Based on the 1:25 span of control target, we found that a shortage of 412 regular supervisors existed nationwide and the Postal Service used more than 1.8 million replacement supervisor workhours in FY 2012.
These conditions occurred because the Postal Service did not always adjust supervisor positions in relation to craft positions to achieve span of control targets. Also, the Postal Service did not always monitor span of control during the plant consolidation process. We calculated the supervisor to craft employee span of control for 52 mail processing plant consolidations implemented in FY 2011. Of the 43 plants that gained employees, only four had a span of control below the target of 1:25. The remaining 39 had a higher span of control ranging from 1:25 to 1:79.
Management agreed with our recommendations to re-evaluate span of control targets, ensure authorized staffing levels are maintained at correct span of control levels, and reduce supervisor replacement workhours as needed. They also agreed to ensure estimated staffing levels at gaining and losing plants are realized to the fullest extent possible during consolidation efforts.