Survey of Staffing (SOS)

Detailed information for October 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013 (Cycle 6)





Record number:


The Survey of Staffing provides employees the opportunity to give feedback on their experiences with staffing processes within the federal public service.

This survey is one of the principal tools that the Public Service Commission uses to oversee staffing activities within the federal public service and to help improve government-wide staffing policies.

Data release - April 1, 2014


The Survey of Staffing is one of the most important tools that the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Canada uses to monitor staffing activity within the federal public service. It focuses on the core staffing values of merit and non-partisanship, the guiding values of fairness, access, transparency and representativeness and the management principles of efficiency, flexibility and time to staff.

The information gathered helps the PSC identify areas where the staffing system can be improved, either at the public service-wide or organizational level, and is used to support reporting to Parliament.

The survey collects data on experiences of public servants who have participated in a staffing process as a candidate and/or as a manager, including staffing strategies, the area of selection, assessment tools used and the outcome. Many of the questions ask for details that help to classify the type of process and positions being staffed. The survey also collects information on political activities.

Reference period: varies

Collection period: varies


  • Employment and remuneration
  • Government
  • Labour

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The SOS targets public service employees who worked in federal departments and agencies which fall under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and had at least 350 employees on the last day of the reference period with the following exceptions:

- non-civilians;
- governor-in-council appointments;
- minister's exempt staff; and
- employees engaged under a student employment program.

Since 2012, the SOS also targets members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Forces who have civilian staff reporting to them who are employed under the PSEA.

Instrument design

The questionnaire for SOS 2013 was based on the SOS 2012. It was developed in coordination with the survey sponsor, the Public Service Commission.

Focus group testing was used to test new and revised content. A total of four focus groups (2 in English and 2 in French), within which the participants were asked to complete paper copies of the questionnaire followed by a discussion of the survey.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

The sampling frame was made up of all in-scope employees that were on the Public Works and Government Services Canada's Incumbent file. Since the contact information (e-mail) was not available on the Incumbent file, it had to be collected by Statistics Canada from the departments through Article 13 of the Statistics Act. The sampling unit was the employee.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2014-01-06 to 2014-01-31

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Each person in the sample is contacted by e-mail and invited to complete an electronic questionnaire available on the Statistics Canada website.

During collection reminder e-mails are sent on a regular basis to participants in the electronic collection who have not submitted their electronic questionnaire.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

Some editing was done directly at the time the electronic questionnaire was completed. Where the information was outside the range (too large or small) of expected values, or inconsistent with the previous entries, the respondent was prompted, through message screens, to verify the information. However, the respondents had the option of bypassing the edits, and of skipping questions if they did not know the answer or refused to answer. Therefore, the data were subjected to further edit processes after they were submitted.

The first type of error treated involved a lack of information in questions that should have been answered. For this type of error, a non-response or "not-stated" code was assigned to the item.

The second type of error treated was errors in questionnaire flow, where questions that did not apply to the respondent (and should therefore not have been answered) were found to contain answers. In this case a computer edit automatically eliminated superfluous data by following the flow of the questionnaire implied by answers to previous, and in some cases, subsequent questions.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.


Estimates representing in-scope employees were produced by assigning weights to each sampled employee. The weight of a sampled employee indicated the number of employees in the population that the unit represented. The initial weight was defined as the inverse of the probability of selection.

The weighting for the SOS consists of several steps:
Step 1 - Initial design weight
Step 2A - Non-response adjustment for the Master File
Step 2B - Non-response / non-sharing adjustment for the Share File
Step 3 - Post-stratification adjustment and final weight

In order to produce the final weights, a first adjustment was made to the initial weight to account for the SOS non-response. The non-response adjustment (or the non-response / non-sharing adjustment in the case of the Share File) and the post-stratification adjustment are used to calculate the final weight. This final adjustment consisted of post-stratification to the known counts of employees in each department. The quality of the estimates was assessed using estimates of their coefficient of variation (CV).

Quality evaluation

Considerable time and effort were taken to reduce non-sampling errors in the survey. Quality assurance measures were implemented at each step of the questionnaire development, data collection and processing cycle to monitor the quality of the data. These measures include focus group testing to detect problems of questionnaire design or misunderstanding of instructions, the use of highly tested computerized questionnaire applications, procedures to ensure that data capture errors were minimized, and edit quality checks to verify the processing logic.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy

Quality control and assurance methods were applied, at each stage of the collection and processing cycle in accordance with current Statistics Canada practices, to verify the quality of the data. Editing was performed to detect missing, invalid or incoherent data.

Response rates and sampling error:

The response rate for this survey was 53.0%. Departmental response rates ranged from 33.6% to 70.7%.

Although, all eligible employees were included in the sample for the Survey of Staffing, because of the levels of non-response, one can consider the respondents as a sample of the population. The results obtained from receiving responses to the same questions from all employees in the target population would differ to some extent. The extent of this survey error is approximated by the CV with the following guidelines:

- 16.5% and below: acceptable estimate
- 16.6% to 33.3%: marginal estimate requiring cautionary note to users; and
- 33.3% and above: unacceptable estimate.

Estimates that do not meet an acceptable level of quality are either flagged for caution or suppressed.


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