Workforce.com

Postal Service Streamlining HR Operations

August 29, 2006
No matter where you are, there’s likely a U.S. Post Office nearby. Until recently, that location probably handled its human resources operations a little differently from any other office.

But now the U.S. Postal Service—an organization with nearly 700,000 employees and annual revenue of $70 billion—is reaching the first milestones in streamlining its HR operations in an initiative called PostalPeople.

So far, USPS has integrated 73 of its 80 districts into a shared services center that can handle benefits, retirement, separation and management hiring.

The second phase of the project involves upgrading its core HR operation, which consists of 70 systems supporting 200 processes in the 80 districts. Part of the computer code is more than 20 years old and is based on essentially extinct computing languages.

The antiquated HR system is being turned off in stages around the country as the Postal Service implements a new system designed by SAP that will allow employees to conduct routine HR transactions at kiosks in the workplace or online from any location at any time.

The system introduction has begun in the New York City area, where it is being used to manage the process of advertising and filling open positions. Three more districts will be added by the end of September, with the national debut slated for January. The shared services center has been established in Greensboro, North Carolina.

PostalPeople, which kicked off in July 2004, is part of the Postal Service Transformation Plan, launched two years earlier with the goal of increasing efficiency. The Postal Service invested more than $103 million in PostalPeople. When completed, savings are expected to total $60 million annually.

The end result will be a self-service HR network that enables employees to do HR transactions electronically, from changing their address to registering for benefits. All of the information will be available in one system serving 37,000 Postal Service locations nationwide.

Supervisors will no longer have to log out of one area and into another to keep track of their employees, fill open positions and evaluate employees.

"It’s one system pulling information onto the screen," says Deborah Giannoni-Jackson, Postal Service vice president of employee resource management. "It’s pretty incredible."

The new approach will make the Postal Service more agile and free managers from time-consuming transactional work.

"The first part of being able to manage well is to have the data you need to make decisions," says Giannoni-Jackson, former HR vice president for international supermarket operator Royal Ahold. "Now they can focus more on succession planning, training and development, or labor relations—issues that are much more strategic for the organization."

That kind of thinking is becoming more important for the Postal Service, whose operating budget is derived from sales of postage, products and services. It’s a quasi-government agency that’s being run more and more like a private company.

With that in mind, it has worked closely with SAP, bringing the software company almost seamlessly into its operations.

"The Postal Service treats us not as a software vendor, but as a partner to them in building their business," says Rand Blazer, president of the SAP public sector business unit.

Mark Schoeff Jr.