Public Service Employee Survey (PSES)

Record number:

The primary objective of the survey is to obtain the views of federal public service employees about their workforce, workplace and leadership. The survey results highlight where organizations are doing well and identify areas for improvement to help organizations develop informed action plans to address people management issues.

Detailed information for 2014

Data release - scheduled for February 5, 2015


The Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) has been conducted every three years since 1999 to gather employee perspectives on aspects of their workplace, workforce and leadership, providing information about employee engagement, performance management, career development, and fairness and respect in the workplace. The survey results provide essential information for the Management Accountability Framework, and inform policy related to values and ethics, official languages, staffing, training, and other key people management areas.

As of 2014, survey results can be compared over three survey cycles to reveal trends across the public service or within organizations. Some questions of the PSES allow for benchmarking with the results of employee surveys of other governments, including provincial/territorial and international comparisons.

The survey results inform managers and employees about strengths and areas for improvement at all levels within an organization. The results contribute to the understanding of people management issues, leading to action plans that may positively impact the workplace. The results also serve as a platform to initiate and maintain dialogue about key people management issues.


  • Government
  • Industries
  • Labour

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The survey targets active employees of organizations in the core public administration and of participating separate agencies listed in Schedules I, IV and V of the Financial Administration Act. Indeterminate, term, seasonal, casual and student employees, as well as Governor in Council appointees are eligible to participate.

Instrument design

The content of the 1999 survey was developed by an interdepartmental committee, led by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, with the support of Statistics Canada. In 2002, the survey was modified extensively, retaining 39 questions from the 1999 version. The 2005 version was a duplicate of the 2002 PSES. In 2008, the survey underwent a major revision, including changes to the response scale for the majority of questions, which precluded comparisons with results from previous survey cycles. Both the 2011 and 2014 questionnaires have evolved to address current issues and allow for benchmarking with other government employee surveys. The 2014 survey content was developed through extensive consultation with departments and agencies, central agencies, bargaining agents, Human Resources policy groups, functional communities, and employment equity group committees.

The 2014 questionnaire contained 106 questions: 17 new questions, 13 modified questions, and 76 questions repeated from the 2011 survey (55 of the repeated questions were also used in the 2008 survey). To test the content of the 2014 questionnaire, focus group sessions were held in the National Capital, Winnipeg and Montréal. Participants were from various departments and agencies, and various occupational groups and levels.

As well, participating departments and agencies were given an opportunity to add up to five supplementary questions to be administered to their employees and, 13 did. The supplements were also tested in a series of focus groups held in each of these departments.

The 2014 questionnaire was formatted as an electronic survey (to be completed online), as a paper survey and in three alternate formats (large print, Braille and audio CD).


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

Data are collected for all units of the target population; therefore, no sampling is done.

A total of 93 departments and agencies participated in the 2014 survey.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2014-08-25 to 2014-10-31

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The Public Service Employee Survey was administered to active employees in organizations in the federal public service, for which Treasury Board is the employer, as well as in participating separate agencies. The survey was a census with voluntary participation. The collection was primarily done using an electronic questionnaire. Each department and agency was responsible for providing a complete list of email addresses for their department. Email invitations were sent to each employee with a valid email address containing a unique password to access the survey questionnaire. Reminders were sent on a weekly basis to those who have not responded to the survey. As soon as the respondent submitted their completed questionnaire, the data were transferred through Statistics Canada's internal network and then decrypted for processing. Respondents had the possibility to save their partially completed questionnaire and finish it later.

The 2014 electronic collection ran from August 25 to October 3, 2014. The survey closing date was extended by one week, from September 26 to October 3.

Employees who did not have email addresses or access to the Internet received paper questionnaires, which were distributed through the human resources service of their department or agency. Paper questionnaires were returned directly to Statistics Canada in a postage-paid return envelope. The closing date for acceptance of paper questionnaires was October 31, 2014.

Alternate format questionnaires were made available upon request.

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

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.