USPS OIG: First-Line Supervisor Recruitment and Retention


First-line supervisors play a critical role in any organization and influence productivity, quality, and employee morale. In the U.S. Postal Service, first-line supervisors significantly contribute to accomplishing Postal Service goals, including ensuring customers receive quality service and their mail and parcels on time and in good condition. For the purposes of our work, we focused on customer service, distribution, maintenance, and transportation operations supervisors located in retail and Postal Service processing facilities.

During fiscal year (FY) 2018, the Postal Service had 18,433 permanent first-line supervisors —13,049 in retail facilities and 5,384 in mail processing facilities. In addition, 4,394 employees acted as first-line supervisors detailed for a limited period to perform supervisory duties and responsibilities.

Generally, supervisor positions are filled internally by qualified career employees through assignment, reassignment, and/or promotion. When career vacancies cannot be filled internally, external hiring may be authorized.

Our objective was to assess whether the Postal Service is effectively hiring and retaining first-line supervisors. We reviewed recruitment and retention initiatives to determine if they met their intended purpose. Additionally, we evaluated a statistical sample of 246 first-line supervisor vacancies from FYs 2016 to 2018 to determine whether the Postal Service filled first-line supervisor vacancies timely and whether first-line supervisors met qualifications outlined in job announcements.

Our fieldwork was completed before the President of the United States issued the national emergency declaration concerning the novel coronavirus disease outbreak (COVID-19) on March 13, 2020. The results of this audit do not reflect any process and/or operational changes that may have occurred as a result of the pandemic.


The Postal Service effectively retained first-line supervisors, as its nationwide average attrition rate remained at 1 percent for the three-year period from FYs 2016 to 2018. Current recruitment and retention initiatives also met their intended purpose based on participant survey results. However, despite the low attrition rates for first-line supervisors from FYs 2016 to 2018, first-line supervisors were the least engaged of all employee categories in the Postal Service during the same time period.

Also, the Postal Service did not fill first-line supervisor vacancies timely and hiring officials did not complete and maintain supporting documentation for first-line supervisor positions. The Postal Service had an informal goal to fill first-line supervisor vacancies within 60 days. Despite this goal, 217 of 246 vacancies (88 percent) were open for over 60 days, ranging from 61 to 286 days.

Additionally, Postal Service hiring officials did not complete and maintain required supporting documentation for 168 of 246 first-line supervisor positions (68 percent). Incomplete and missing documentation included items such as signed and dated requirements matrices that determine whether potential hires met qualification requirements. As a result, we could not determine whether these supervisors met the qualifications outlined in vacancy announcements.

These issues occurred because the Postal Service did not establish and implement sufficient controls to ensure hiring officials completed hiring activities in a timely manner and ensure district and facility officials completed and maintained hiring documentation as required.

When first-line supervisor vacancies are not filled timely, there is an increased risk of those staff shortages negatively affecting operations, overtime usage, and the workload of other supervisors and employees.

Because the Postal Service could not provide the required supporting documentation for the selection of some of the first-line supervisors, we identified $16.4 million in unsupported questioned costs related to the pay increase for promotion to first-line supervisor.


We recommended management establish and implement sufficient controls to ensure hiring officials complete their hiring activities in a timely manner and an oversight mechanism to ensure district and facility officials prepare and maintain hiring documentation as required.

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In my 33 years of postal employment as a rural mail carrier I can give my observations from a local post office where people who usually apply for a supervisor’s position are many times – carriers (city or rural) or clerks whose bodies have been beaten up by the job of carrying/sorting mail and realize that in order to stay with the PO, they will have to choose to be a supervisor. They already know that that job is long hours, sometimes for minimal pay difference for older carriers – and that there is NO RETREAT back to the craft… Read more »

You do know your Recommendations would cost up to 10 times more for USPS to implement?