The following are excerpts from a USPS Office Of Inspector General review of the eIDEAS program. According to the USPS OIG, “When an idea is approved, management can award noncash and cash awards up to $10,000. The complainant and surveyed employees expressed concern about management’s commitment to the eIDEAS program.”
This management advisory presents the results of our review of the eIDEAS program
(Project Number 10YG023DA000). Our objective was to identify opportunities for the
U.S. Postal Service to enhance the timeliness of the eIDEAS process and transparency
of the resulting management actions. We conducted this self-initiated review based on a
hotline complaint. See Appendix A for additional information about this review.
The eIDEAS program is a web-based application that allows Postal Service employees
to submit ideas online or at one of the kiosks located in processing plants. The Postal
Service encourages employees to contribute constructive ideas to improve customer
satisfaction, generate revenue, increase productivity, and improve competitiveness.
Given the current financial condition of the Postal Service, it is appropriate to evaluate
the timeliness and transparency of the eIDEAS program to help management identify
those ideas with tangible benefits.
We found the eIDEAS program was not timely and management’s resulting actions
were not transparent. Specifically, while the eIDEAS program guide stipulates
evaluators assess ideas within 7 days of submission, we found level 1 evaluators took
an average of 2.2 years to process employee ideas, while level 2 and level 3
evaluators1 took an average of 1.1 years and .57 years, respectively, to process ideas.
Additionally, we noted that while the number of ideas submitted has grown by 26
percent from fiscal years (FY) 2004 to 2009, the number and value of awards has
declined by more than 88 percent. Although, we did not assess the quality of employee
suggestions received, this trend suggests further evaluation is warranted by
management to measure program success.
1 Level 1 idea evaluation is typically performed by the supervisor, postmaster, or manager to whom the submitter
reports. Level 2 evaluation is performed by the submitting organization’s executive (or designee). Level 3 evaluation
is performed by a representative of the headquarters functional area to which the idea most closely relates.
Our survey of employees who submitted ideas revealed that untimely evaluations,
insufficient management commitment and communication, and insufficient program
transparency were perceived as inhibitors to the program’s success. Program
management indicated that system limitations such as electronic reminders and
employee separations contributed to the backlog in open statuses. These challenges
prevent the full realization of the eIDEAS program’s purpose, which is to improve
customer satisfaction, generate revenue, increase productivity, and enhance
In our benchmarking analysis, we found that federal and private entities have similar
idea programs. The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), the Department
of Defense (DOD), and the state of Washington evaluate and/or reward ideas within 20
to 45 days of submission. The DOD considers a benefit-to-award ratio when
implementing its ideas program. NASA, the DOD, and the state of Washington also use
a committee to evaluate ideas.
In regard to the hotline compliant, Postal Service Engineering developed a solution to
the Delivery Barcode Sorter (DBCS) problem with damaged stacker gates that was field
tested and repair kits were procured. Additionally, the Postal Service Maintenance
Technical Support Center (MTSC) is currently working on a maintenance bulletin to
inform field sites of the fix. The OIG hotline office will communicate with the complainant
as appropriate. See Appendix B for our detailed analysis of this topic.
We recommend the executive vice president, chief Human Resources officer, in
coordination with participating vice presidents:
1. Re-evaluate the Postal Service’s level of commitment to the eIDEAS program and
implement program modifications as appropriate.
2. Take action to improve the timeliness of the evaluation process and the
transparency of resulting management actions.