Making the Postal Service—and Its Employees—Better

Making the Postal Service—and Its Employees—BetterNAPUS – USPS Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Jeff Williamson addressed the NAPUS Executive Board at its meeting Friday, March 11. He talked about the Postal Service’s National Performance Assessment (NPA) and Pay-for-Performance (PFP) system.

Williamson said he has focused on introducing more transparency and ensuring timeliness. The goal is to have everything ready at the start of the fiscal year. He also looks at ways to make the system better each year. HR has yet to automate the mitigation process. The goal is to make it more effective in addressing some of the systemic budget issues. Williamson pledged his commitment to solving those issues.

He stressed the importance of responding to everyone who has submitted mitigation—letting them know the outcome and the reasons for it. The process wasn’t flawless, but Williamson said he felt confident every case presented to his department was evaluated and the justifications for the decisions were communicated to filers. “We need to do a better job,” he said. “There has to be an explanation why a mitigation was approved or disapproved.” Going into 2016, the goal is to build the mitigation process into the Performance Evaluation System.

Ideally, timelines should be available and a new system designed by late April or early May so employees can understand how mitigation will be handled. The system should notify them what the timeliness are, with reminders built into the system. This will provide visibility as to when documentation is submitted. Also, there will be a higher-level appeal option.

Williamson said he always follows through when contacted by employees. “You may not like the answer or outcome,” he said, “but I always follow through.” Once the mitigation process is automated, he should be able to go into the system and have information readily available. “I hope in 2016 you’ll see a very different process,” he said.

He has pulled together a cross-functional team to start work on the 2017 NPA. It will assess goals and objectives: What is the intended purpose for NPA? Were those goals achieved? If not, what needs to be changed? By July or August, there should be a complete proposal with metrics, targets, thresholds and scorecards. There also will be an opportunity for feedback. Any concerns can be addressed; then, employees can know what their goals are by Oct. 1.

Williamson responded to questions from board members. The issue was raised that there are Postmasters totally frustrated with the budget and mitigation process. Williamson said he and his team evaluated a number of offices and looked at the hours necessary to open the doors versus actual results. “We identified more than 200 offices where we made a corporate mitigation,” he said. “You have my commitment to address every single issue. I won’t stand by and have someone have 0 hours; you can’t even turn the lights on. We will continue to address it.”

Regarding the mitigation process, an automated system will be in place this year. “If I can see it,” Williamson said, “I can fix it. For example, if someone locally approves a mitigation, there needs to be a really good justification for the next higher level not to uphold that approval. There will be visibility in the system.”

Williamson said he regards NPA as a full compensation system, but there needs to be more integrity in the system. “Going forward,” he posed, “what does a performance measurement look like and how is it tied to compensation? It needs to legitimately rate someone’s efficiencies, competencies and growth.”

When asked where he gets members for his cross-functional teams, Williamson responded he asks for representatives from each function and field support. “I don’t care who it is or what level,” he said. “This is about providing resources to come together and talk about NPA—the metrics, the values, scoreboards—to put a product together that is fair, objective and measurable.”

There has been positive response to the Postmaster Essentials training. Williamson stressed the importance of face-to-face training. He said his two priorities have been training and development; everything starts there. Much has been accomplished these past two years, but there still is a long way to go. “At the end of the day—five years from now—I want to look back and say training has revolutionized the Postal Service,” he said.

Training also needs to be delivered in multiple ways. Some learn by listening, some are tactile—they have to touch it—and others are very visual. The goal of training is to make the employees and the organization better, as well as having a way to measure it.

Williamson responded to the comment that Postmasters and Managers have lost confidence in the system because they feel there is no one at the top who values them. He reminded NAPUS board members that he had worked in the private sector. When he came to the Postal Service, the passion he felt from everyone he met and worked with was unlike anything he saw in the private sector. “The iconic institution we represent only exists here,” he declared.

“Are there areas that are getting better? Absolutely! It starts with changing the environment and everything else starts to take care of itself. We need to fix systemic issues in HR; we own that. Locally, you own the environment, the attitude. If you change your behavior, people notice.”