Editorial: Voice of the U.S. Postal Service Employee Survey

Writing is a great way to have a meeting with my readers. No I’m not crazy, but we all can get a little cuckoo from the same o’ same o’ VOE survey results. If I could read the mind of the postal boss that exhibits the tough guy image as they pass by laborers on the workroom floor their thought bubble about us emanating above their head would read “I’d like to pay them what I think they’re worth, but lucky for them there’s a minimum-wage law.”

One of the Postal Service strategic goals is to improve employee engagement. According to USPS strategic planning the Voice of the Employee (VOE) survey is one of the largest employee surveys in the nation and recent index questions have changed to shift focus from conditions of work place to employee engagement. With all the workplace changes, complement reductions, and reassignments due to mail volume declines it would be a much more productive survey if there was adequate writing space for employee opinion comments. Instead we prefer the five-level Likert bipolar scaling method known to avoid extreme responses resulting in more favorable outcomes for the surveying organization.

Recent outcomes (Quarter 1, FY 2011) resulted in 54 percent of those surveyed responding. That’s not good! I wouldn’t want to score a 54% out of 100 on anything. Sixty-four point six percent of those who responded replied favorably? Is there a gimmick here? 64.6% of 54%, and the word “favorably.”

The majority of our employees understood the Postal Service’s strategic direction and how their work affects the organization’s success. Most responses should be favorable to this question, or is that query designed to compensate for some other lower scoring questions that might follow later on? Seventy-five percent (of 54%) of employees said they are proud to work for the Postal Service. I sure would like to know what the other 25% (of 54%) are thinking. Seventy-nine percent (of 54%) are aware of the security measures in the workplace, and the same percentage believes they have been properly trained to do their jobs. The main analysis of the entire low scoring survey should revolve around achieving maximum participation and high end results.

More than 81% (of 54%) say they understand how their work impacts the service the Postal Service provides. At least 77% (of 54%) feel personally responsible for helping USPS succeed as a business. More than half (is that 51% of 54%) believe USPS promotes diversity of backgrounds, talents and perspectives.

It’s time to focus on how to strengthen the VOE dimensions of communications, diversity, and respect to get more participation in the organizational climate survey. Fifty-four percentage points for participation implies that employees don’t care, or believe filling out the assessment will make no difference.

54% prepared is not “ready” as a performance score if it really matters! Does it matter? Ready for battle scores would best be indicated by a number with a “9” in front of it. No time to celebrate low percentages but maybe time to tie low standards and inadequate performance scores to promotions or demotions. Then our leaders will seriously understand “What’s in it for you,” better known as WIIFY.

Here are a few ideas for the boss’ responsible for suggesting “The numbers don’t lie, and that’s where they come in:

Conduct regular periodic town halls with employees. State the ground rules and get-it-on. Don’t give a one-way “wind-up” doll presentation demonstrated by hiding behind a slide show for 55 minutes and thinking 5 minutes for Q&A will satisfy hearing what is on the mind of hundreds of employees. We heard your agenda, mow hear ours. With the advent of social media today employees don’t have to wait for the wizard on the stool, or behind the curtain to call on a raised hand in the crowd to speak. Bring your top management team on stage and let them be on the panel with you as you invite employee feedback in person. You just might raise an eyebrow from some of the favorable thoughts, unfavorable apprehensions, and facial expressions from the redundant yes-men/woman surrounding your highness. You got to believe in people if you want to be in leadership!

Bosses at all levels owe their success or failure to the employees that hold the ladders that ascended them to the level of the dance floor. Look out below shouldn’t signal I’m about to drop the hammer. Try traveling around the agency, corporation, or business and remain audible ready for the people who are doing the job every single day so that the team can be triumphant. We know what is wrong, and we need your leadership to fix it. It is common knowledge that senior management always take a long time to discover things because they refuse to come down deep and savor the reality of the people bringing the numbers up from the basement. Get out of that comfort zone, hoss! There will never be a better time than the present to get some genuine criticism from the people driving the delivery vehicles, cleaning the bathrooms, prepping the mail, and keeping the paperwork on point. Our perspective is as personal as you handwriting a first class letter. It’s the opportunity that presents the kind of attention that will undoubtedly support you in positively re-doing the corporate DNA. Don’t be the cartoon character that runs of the edge of the cliff and suddenly realizes there is no ground underneath to break your fall. If you engage us properly, we won’t let you drop down.

You have to listen! It’s easy to talk about and harder to do. So what if you hear thoughts like; we don’t trust leadership, and managers are arrogant. We realize it’s probably lonely at the top, but you should remember it’s even lonelier at the bottom. We are counting on you to treasure and absorb critique. Hear us loud and clear, and through your charisma prove to the masses you are really listening.

I believe at the U.S. Postal Service we have one of the world’s greatest brands originating from a long successful history. There is a quote by an unknown author that suggests “When the magician believes in his or her own magic, they’re really in trouble.” We are overdue for a change in the company leadership profile. Big bosses need to challenge little bosses, and little bosses need to challenge big bosses to stay connected making each other no-nonsense folks. Let’s prepare for a shift in generational thinking to go along with the diversifying demographics of this service-oriented workforce. I’m sure we spend a lot of money on developing products and services but we need to invest a lot more wealth in the people “delivery” system which is the only way to get the business off the ground and keep our competitive advantage among the stars.

Ronald Williams

written exclusively for PostalReporter.com

8 thoughts on “Editorial: Voice of the U.S. Postal Service Employee Survey

  1. Even though I would put myself in the 75% who are proud to work for the Postal Service think I know what the other 25% are thinking when they say they are not proud to work for the USPS. For instance I am not very proud of our company when we have a line out the door and the Postmaster won’t give me the window clerks to take care of the customers, and I’m the Supervisor who has to take the comlaints and look at the faces of the customers who are not very happy with us when we have five stations and only two of them have clerks taking customers.

  2. Line supervisors are directed by insecure intimidating Postmaster to bring 1-2 employees at a time to complete survey; direct employees to give supv. form. Supv. directed to bring completed form tp PM office which is a joke. Employee does not have to return completed survey to anyone, MAY MAIL completed themselves and yet A PM DIRECT TO RETURN TO SUPV. We the employees know the type individual and character of the PM.
    VOE survey results affect PAY FOR PERFORMANCE.

  3. The 46% that did not fill out the form are the ones that have been around long enough to know that no mater what they tell you, those surveys are Not Anonymous. One honest, negative response got me into deep do-do years ago. In a small office where the Postmaster has been instructed to personally hand out the survey to the 2 or 3 employees receiving VOE’s that quarter, when he receives the responses, even if there is no name attached, he knows who it came from. USPS does not really want any feed-back from the hourly employees, they just want their numbers to look good.

  4. “…Fifty-four percentage points for participation implies that employees don’t care, or believe filling out the assessment will make no difference….”

    OR, more likely, it implies that employees believe that management is fundamentally dishonest, and will twist these survey results to fit their agenda — after seeing them use DOIS and COR, why would anyone expect anything different ???

  5. I always thought VOE a management tool used to skew data for political or advertorial purposes. The fact that no question required elaboration illustratef the bias of the question and brought the veracity of the survey into play. These current results have no meaningful substance due.to the low response rate. It would be better if these results were published in entirety, and scrutinized by someone other than management and their contractor.

  6. Last time I did one of those stupid surveys in the ’80’s, they used the results against us negotiating the next contract. F**k ’em.

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