Audit Report - DP-AR-14-002 - 03/07/2014

The Postal Service is getting leaner. But as it trims its workforce it is also losing some of its most valuable resources: long- term employees with extensive knowledge that is vital to running a vast organization.

The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently reviewed how the Postal Service is managing its potential “brain drain” and found it needs to set up a comprehensive knowledge management process to retain and share the explicit and tacit expertise and experience of its long-term workers, many of whom are leaving the organization due to downsizing and retirement eligibility.

Our audit found the Postal Service has knowledge management elements in some of its programs. But an organized strategy would emphasize that knowledge management is a priority, ensure consultant studies and other resources are shared throughout the organization, and help identify and fill any gaps in knowledge management, retention, and dissemination.

We looked at how eight public and private organizations, such as the General Services Administration and Walmart, manage knowledge, and we identified some best practices the Postal Service should consider. These include: conducting exit interviews aimed at gleaning key information; designating a knowledge management officer; developing knowledge maps that mark the organization’s pockets of expertise; and conducting mentor-based training. Less formally, Communities of Practice and blogs or other social media are common tools these organizations use to share information.

We also recommended the Postal Service join the federal Knowledge Management Working Group, which has experts to help inform and support organizations as they set up and run comprehensive knowledge management strategies. It can take several years to fully integrate a new Knowledge Management process. But doing so can help the Postal Service preserve vital institutional know-how as employees retire and its workforce contracts.

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