Effectiveness of the Postal Service’s Efforts to Reduce Non-Career Employee Turnover
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.
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.
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.