Public Service Employee Survey (PSES)

Detailed information for 2005





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.

Data release - June 23, 2006


The effects of Program Review, government restructuring, increased workload and rapid technological advances have greatly affected federal Public Service employees. Recent studies and reports on specific segments of the federal Public Service had shown that low morale was prevalent among executives and knowledge workers and that many employees felt that workplace conditions were not conducive to confidence in management, job satisfaction and career advancement. Much additional information was required in order to further evaluate these findings and determine how the present workplace structure could be improved to meet the challenges facing it at the turn of the new millennium.

In 1997, the Clerk of the Privy Council introduced the idea of a voluntary survey of all federal Public Service employees. The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) was asked to implement the project. 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. As part of the project, Statistics Canada was asked to participate in the development and to collect and process the data.

The survey results will be used to develop actions at the level of the department, sector or branch and ultimately at the work unit level. The results would also serve as input to the future corporate management agenda. The survey will provide a baseline against which future progress in renewing the workplace can be measured.

Statistical activity

The survey is currently administered as part of the Public Service Employee Survey Program (PSES). This program includes the main Public Service Employee Survey (record number 4438) and a number of other department or agency-specific employee surveys. The target population of the main Public Service Employee Survey is employees of the federal Public Service employed under Schedule I, Part I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA 1-1), while the other surveys are conducted for departments or agencies that are covered in Schedule I, Part II. The primary objective of the program is to obtain the views of employees of the federal Public Service about their workplaces. The information will allow managers and employees to initiate concrete actions in their own department or agency, and where warranted, across the Public Service.


  • 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) with the following exceptions:

1. Students;
2. Governor in council appointments; and
3. Minister's exempt staff.

Instrument design

The questionnaire content was developed 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 questions for this survey were 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. The 2002 and 2005 Public Service Employee Surveys were follow-up surveys to the 1999 PSES. In order to ensure comparability between the 1999 and 2002 surveys, key questions from the 1999 PSES remained identical in the 2002 PSES, while minor changes were made to some other questions. New questions were added in place of certain questions from the 1999 PSES in order to explore new themes and provide additional information on issues identified in the first survey. There was no change between the 2002 and 2005 survey questionnaire.

In 2002, focus groups were held across the country and included employees at various groups and levels as well as English and French focus groups. Comments from the focus groups were integrated into the questionnaire and a final layout was decided. Participating departments and agencies were also invited to provide comments on the draft questionnaire. All Survey Champions (departments and agencies) were invited to briefings on the questionnaire and project plan. The Minister responsible for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat approved the delivery of the second survey.

The final questionnaire was also provided to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to assist in CRA's efforts to deliver a comparable instrument.

As the department code was essential for the analysis of the data, it was decided that each department and agency would receive their own questionnaire with their department code on the front page. Seventy-three departments and agencies participated in the survey of which twenty-one small organizations were regrouped as one single department. Having the organizational unit lists coded with the same department number made it easier to ensure that the proper list of organizational units would accompany the right questionnaire. The list of organizational units and a postage-paid return envelope were included with the questionnaire in the envelope.


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.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2005-11-02 to 2005-12-20

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The Public Service Employee Survey was administered to all employees in the Public Service for which Treasury Board is the employer. The survey was a census. Each member of the target audience received a paper questionnaire to complete. The survey was anonymous; that is, the respondent's name or other identification was not required on the questionnaire.

Each department and agency was responsible for distributing the questionnaires to their employees. Each department and agency was given the choice to have their questionnaires delivered to one location or to give Statistics Canada a list of addresses and contacts for local distribution. The recommended target date for distribution of the questionnaires to all employees was November 2, 2005. However, the actual process was left to the discretion of the department or agency.

Once completed, the questionnaire was returned directly to Statistics Canada in a postage-paid return envelope. Statistics Canada accepted completed questionnaires for several weeks following the established survey period of November 2, 2005 to December 20, 2005. The closing date for acceptance of questionnaires was January 20, 2006. Departments and agencies were asked to remind their employees to complete the survey and to return their questionnaires as soon as possible. Each department and agency used a different approach to promote participation in the survey. Most used a letter from their Deputy Minister and had information on their intranet site, as well as other communications with their employees.

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

Error detection

The data capture of the more than 106,000 questionnaires received was done between November 2005 and January 2006. The data were captured using imaging and automated data entry technology. A small proportion of questionnaires, those that could not be read by the optical scanners, were captured using heads-down keying by experienced operators. Questionable zones method with standard quality control measures were used to verify the error rate of the capture operations. For the Public Service Employee Survey, based on the quality control sample that was selected, it was determined that the overall data capture error rate did not exceed 0.5%.

The data were processed by applying edit rules to identify missing, invalid or inconsistent data. Each question was examined to verify the presence of a valid code. If none was present then a "Not stated" response code of "9" was assigned. For example, an edit rule was applied that examined the flow of data from Question 99 to Question 100. Depending on the response to Question 99, superfluous data that did not respect the flow of data were eliminated.

As well, data inconsistencies were corrected. Some verification was done to match the province of work and the work unit. An edit was applied in the National Capital Region (NCR) where respondents coded their province of work as being Ontario or Quebec instead of the separate NCR code. In other cases, when regions were identified separately, the department or agency was consulted and when applicable, personnel in the Regions were recoded to a regional unit.


This methodology does not apply.


The weight calculated for the Public Service Employee Survey can be thought of as re-weighting the respondents so that the respondent and population distributions have the same overall distribution with respect to the department/agency and the aggregate occupational group.

Simply put, if 20% of the employees in a department or agency are in a particular aggregate occupational group, then the weight ensures that this aggregate occupational group represents 20% of the number of respondents when tabulating the data. In other words, the weight compensates for the over and under representation of aggregate occupational groups within each federal department/agency. For aggregate occupational groups that were over represented within the department/agency, the weights are smaller than one. For aggregate occupational groups that were under represented within the department/agency, the weights are greater than one. That is, if the weight is larger than one then each person represents, besides himself or herself, other persons who did not respond. This weight indicates that the aggregate occupational group was under represented within the department/agency. For example, if the weight is 2, each person represents 2 persons in the population.

The weighting step calculates this number for each record. This weight must be used to derive estimates from the microdata file.

For example, if the number of respondents who "Strongly agree" with the statement "I am proud of the work carried out in my work unit" is to be calculated, it is done by selecting the records for those respondents (Q33 = 1) and summing the weights.

The weights calculated for the PSES were not designed to inflate the respondents so that they represent the population. Non-response weighting adjustments were made to reduce non-response bias, but the weights add up to the number of respondents within each department/agency, not the population size. Therefore when releasing demographic estimates, no statements to that effect can be made.

Note that no adjustment for non-response in small departments and agencies was done due to the small number of employees within the occupational groups in these departments and agencies.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any data which would divulge information obtained under the Statistics Act that relates to any identifiable person, business or organization without the prior knowledge or the consent in writing of that person, business or organization. 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.

It should be noted that the "Public Use" microdata files described above differ in a number of important respects from the survey "master" files held by Statistics Canada. These differences are the result of actions taken to protect the anonymity of individual survey respondents. Users requiring access to information excluded from the microdata files may purchase custom tabulations. Estimates generated will be released to the user, subject to meeting the guidelines for analysis and release.

In order to protect the confidentiality of respondents, the following actions were taken:

1) Suppression of some demographic and questionnaire variables.

The following variables were not included in the public use microdata file:
DEPT Department code
Q010 Shift worker
Q011 Full-time / Part-time status
Q056 Victim of physical violence
Q057 From whom they experienced physical violence
Q060 Type of discrimination experienced
Q068 Number of promotions in the past three years
Q069 Years at current group and level
Q095 Years in Public Service
Q096 Years in current department/agency
Q097 Employee status
Q098 Organizational unit code
Q102 First official language
Q103 Language requirements of the position
Q104 Service to the public
Q105 Language(s) of services to the public
Q107 Designated bilingual area
Q111 Professional designation
Q112 Aboriginal status
Q113 Disability status
Q114 Accessibility tools and/or alternate media resources
Q115 Visible minority status

2) Collapsing the answer categories of some variables.

For the following variables, the answer categories were grouped in order to minimize sensitivity:
D070_M Occupational group
Q071_M Salary range
Q106_M Province or territory of work
Q108_M Age group
Q110_M Level of education
Please refer to the questionnaire for the actual categories before the collapsing.

3) Adding noise to the weights.

4) Local suppression to eliminate cells with less than five respondents.

Approximately 3% of the records were treated by local suppression, when there were fewer than five responses in any cell of a table when all possible combinations of all the demographic variables were cross tabulated. One or more of the demographic variables were treated by randomly assigning a "Not stated" code.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

While considerable effort is made to ensure high standards throughout all stages of collection and processing, the resulting estimates are inevitably subject to a certain degree of error. These errors can be broken down into two major types: non-sampling and sampling.

The Public Service Employee Survey is a census and therefore, there is no error due to sampling. However, the survey is subject to non-sampling errors such as non-response or other non-sampling errors that may occur at almost every phase of a survey operation. Respondents may make errors in answering questions, the answers may be incorrectly captured and errors may be introduced in the processing and tabulation of the data.

Quality assurance and control methods were implemented according to Statistics Canada's standard practices at each step of the data collection and processing cycle to monitor the quality of the data. These measures included focus group testing to detect problems of questionnaire design or misunderstanding of instructions, and using edit rules designed to detect missing, invalid or inconsistent data.

Non-response is an important source of non-sampling error. The target population for 2005 consisted of 180,824 individuals. The overall response rate for the 2005 Public Service Employee Survey was 58.9%.

Please refer to the User Guide for detailed information.


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