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Survey Says… Employee Satisfaction?
By Chuck Mulidore
During my more than 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service—20-plus of those years as an EAS employee at various levels of management—I have heard about employee satisfaction. From the “voices” we used to hear to today’s concept of “engagement,” the USPS claims that customer satisfaction is the critical piece necessary for its long-term survival.
While customer satisfaction is important, the quality of EAS work life, or “engagement,” has not been a factor senior USPS leadership has ever seriously addressed. There is ample evidence that many visionary companies promote em-ployee satisfaction as the key to their survival. The theory is that when employees are well motivated, they naturally will take care of their customers.
“My philosophy is put your employees first, your customers second and your investors third and, in the end, everyone will be happy.” Such is the business philosophy of Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur and business leader and CEO of the Virgin Group. Obviously, we know this is not the business philosophy of the USPS as has been measured over the years and is reflected in today’s bottom-dwelling employee satisfaction scores in Gallup’s employee engagement surveys.
In the interest of discovering what employees seek in terms of satisfaction at work, I referenced a 2009 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This study looked at 24 factors that regularly are thought to relate to employee satisfaction. Interestingly, the study found that employees identified the following five factors as most important:
1. Job security
2. Benefits—especially health care, with the importance of retirement benefits rising with the age of employees
4. Opportunities to use skills and abilities, and
5. Feeling safe in the work environment.
I can’t say that I disagree with any of those top five. The basis of the lawsuit NAPS has filed against the USPS deals largely with pay, benefits and job security. And who can argue with the next five most important factors affecting employee satisfaction based on the SHRM survey?
6. The employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor
7. Management recognition of employee job performance
8. Communication between employees and senior management
9. The work itself, and
10. Autonomy and independence in the employee’s job.
Thus, we see that employees across the spectrum seek good pay, job security, clear communication with their leaders and recognition of job performance, among others, as critical components of engagement and satisfaction. Perhaps most telling are the factors that were not strongly connected to employee satisfaction based on the SHRM survey, yet seem to be of great focus in the Postal Service today:
While I support employees having the opportunity to improve their work lives through promotion, we know that, in today’s Postal Service, many employees no longer are seeking advancement into management. Perhaps, if senior USPS leadership took care of numbers 1 through 10 in the SHRM survey, there would be more interest in career and professional development. While NAPS completely supports the career and networking conferences being held throughout the Postal Service, it’s quite clear that, in general, employees are not focused on career development as a measure of job satisfaction.
NAPS reminds the Postal Service that it’s the EAS employees who ensure the mail moves each day by making countless decisions in the face of endless telecons, layers of redundant reports and reporting requirements that hinder—not facilitate—the movement of America’s mail. We do all this, despite what often seems like the Postal Service’s efforts to get in our way.
So, here are my recommendations after all the surveys have been reviewed: Pay EAS employees fairly by eliminating the PFP system, let us do our jobs, recognize our work and talk to us with the respect we deserve, but so often never receive. Do these things and the employee satisfaction measurements will take care of themselves and our customers will reap the benefits.