Last week, I attended a seminar on mailpiece design hosted by my local Postal Customer Council (“PCC”). The presenter was a US Postal Service (“USPS”) employee whom I’ve known for decades. John has held a variety of roles, including an automation specialist, Business Mail Entry Unit (“BMEU”) supervisor and a Mailpiece Design Analyst (“MDA”).
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I first became a customer of John’s back in the 1990s. One company I worked for redesigned statements to print the postnet barcode in the address block of our bills. John helped set up tests on the automated barcode evaluator – or ABE – as we were working through the design. Later, his staff provided training for my operators when we purchased a letter sorter. And we never ordered business reply envelopes without getting camera-ready artwork from John’s office.
When the USPS moved the MDA process out of the local districts, John didn’t let his customers down. He led classes on how to use the new online system. And if you got stuck, he would still take your calls. If he couldn’t solve your problem, he would find someone who could.
As I listened to John last week, I thought of the other USPS employees who’ve helped me over the decades. Not just in the Boston area, but wherever my business took me. People who not only knew the regulations, but who had built networks of experts within the USPS.
Lately, those networks have started to fall apart. A large percentage of USPS employees are “baby boomers”. Baby boomers is the term used for people born during the demographic post–World War II baby boom – generally considered between the years 1946 and 1964. That means their ages range from 52 to 70 years old. Many are deciding to leave the USPS – either to retire or to start the next phase of their careers. And the pace of retirement announcements seems to have picked up.
Consider the knowledge that’s leaving with these people. Letter carriers who built relationships with the people who live on their routes. MDAs who help business mailers prepare mail properly. Entry clerks making sure that the mail is compatible with postal equipment. Postmasters that are involved with their local communities.
The USPS needs to plan on how best to transfer this knowledge to their new employees. Replacements should spend time shadowing the veterans during their work day. Staff assigned to the business service network need to set up appointments with mailers and actively participate in the local PCC. New postmasters should introduce themselves to the local Chamber of Commerce and other community groups. And everyone needs to network with their fellow USPS employees – craft and management.
New blood and new ideas are good for any organization, especially large entities. At the same time, there’s distinctive value in the experiences of long-term employees. A good plan for the future will integrate these complementary strengths of the USPS.