Postal Service strives to maintain a deep bench for executive jobs

In the face of budget deficits and a shrinking workforce, the U.S. Postal Service is looking to develop its leaders and recruit new talent, according to an agency official.

In an interview with Government Executive, USPS Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President Anthony Vegliante said having a strong workforce succession planning process to identify employees to fill important leadership vacancies is the key to managing the agency's 500 executive and 40 officer positions.

"The most important thing [about succession planning] is it delivers results," he said. "People see results for their efforts."

Vegliante said the process begins when employees nominate themselves for executive positions and Postal Service leaders review performance ratings, education experience and job history. That information then is stored in a human capital enterprise system capable of providing real-time information. Candidates for leadership jobs could include people who are ready to take on executive roles immediately, as well as those who need more experience, which could be gained from detail assignments, additional education or cross-functional projects. Most USPS executives have worked in three to five job functions and geographic locations, according to Vegliante, which allows them to step up for a variety of positions.

"Not everyone has the same job or the same degree of difficulty, but nobody has the inability to perform," he said. "At the end of the day, that's what we look at."

The idea is to have two to three people with varying retirement windows lined up for executive positions at any given time, Vegliante said, adding the Postal Service also tries to ensure its top ranks are as diverse as the USPS workforce as a whole. The agency has consistent turnover for these positions, which Vegliante said isn't a bad thing because it gives other employees opportunities for promotion.

"High turnover is a bit of a headache, but some turnover is not a problem," he said.

The Postal Service also has focused on improving its recruiting efforts. For example, the agency is turning to technology like social networks and skill-specific job sites to pinpoint candidates looking for jobs in areas such as engineering. Recent college graduates also can join a two-year internship program, after which they would be eligible for a full-time position and a four-year master's degree. Despite the Postal Service's need to reduce its workforce, Vegliante said the agency still will focus on recruiting for certain positions.

"Where there were maybe 100 opportunities five years ago, there are 75 today and [will be] 60 five years from now," he said. "We still will need portable skills like engineering, human resources and finance."

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