Public Service Employee Survey (PSES)

Record number:

The primary objective of the survey is to obtain the views of all employees of the federal Public Service about their workplaces. The information will allow managers and employees to initiate concrete actions in their own department, and where warranted, across the Public Service.

Detailed information for 2014

Data release - Results from this survey will be available in February 2015.


The effects of program reviews, government restructuring, increased workload and rapid technological advances are among factors influencing the work of federal Public Service employees. The Public Service Employment Survey was first launched in 1997 in order to gather useful information regarding public service employees' perceptions on multiple aspects of their jobs. This information is vital for managers in the public service who further look at these findings and use them to determine specific areas of improvement within their department such as modifications to the managerial policies and practices.

In 1997, the Clerk of the Privy Council requested, for the first time, that the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) implement the survey. The TBS worked in consultation with other key federal departments to develop a national survey that would gather information from all employees through a common questionnaire. Statistics Canada was asked to participate in the development and to collect and process the data. The survey runs approximately every three years.

The survey results are used to develop action plans at the level of the department, sector or branch and ultimately at the work unit level. The results also contribute to the future corporate management agenda. The survey will provide a foundation for which future progress in renewing the workplace can be measured.


  • Government
  • Industries
  • Labour

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population is all employees of the federal Public Service employed under Schedule I, Part I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA 1-1) and employees of separate agencies that agreed to participate.

Instrument design

The first questionnaire's content was developed in 1997 by an Interdepartmental Committee comprising representatives from small, medium and large departments/agencies, as well as representation from the Small Agencies Group, Statistics Canada, central agencies, bargaining agents and an external advisor. The selection and formulation of the questions for the next cycles have been chosen based on their usefulness to employees, managers and bargaining agents in helping to identify problems and provide concrete solutions to improve the work environment.

In 2014, the survey questionnaire contained 106 questions, 77 of which were the same as 2011 with 29 new or modified questions. To test these, six focus group sessions were held in the National Capital region, three of which were held in French and three were held in English. Each group was comprised of public servants of similar occupational level. Two additional focus groups were held in Winnipeg (in English) and in Montreal (in French). Participants to these two focus groups came from various departments or agencies and had a mix of occupational groups and levels.

Feedback received during focus groups were used to support recommendations to modify the questionnaire.

Moreover, departments and agencies participating in the survey were given an opportunity to add up to five supplementary questions. These questions, which were added to the end of the survey, could be used to gather additional information regarding particular issues within the department or agency. A total of 13 departments opted to add a supplement. The supplements were also tested in a series of focus groups. Two focus group sessions, one each of official language, were held in each of these departments.

The 2014 questionnaire was developed as an electronic survey (to be filled on-line), a paper survey and in various 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.

In 2014, a total of 93 departments and federal agencies participated in the Survey, representing approximately 280,000 public servants.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2014-08-25 to 2014-09-26

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

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

The 2014 electronic collection runs from August 25 to September 26, 2014.

Employees that do not have access to the Internet may receive a paper questionnaire to complete. The questionnaires are to be distributed by the department's human resources services. The survey is anonymous; that is, the respondent's name or other identification is not required on the questionnaire. Once completed, the paper questionnaire is returned directly to Statistics Canada in a postage-paid return envelope. Statistics Canada will accept completed questionnaires for two weeks following the established survey period. The closing date for acceptance of paper questionnaires is October 10, 2014.

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.