Public Service Employee Survey (PSES)

Detailed information for 1999





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 - November 10, 1999


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 determined by a committee including representatives of a number of departments. Questionnaires from employee surveys done by Statistics Canada, other federal departments and in other countries were used as input to the content. The draft questionnaire was submitted to the Committee of Senior Officers (COSO) for approval.

Focus groups were done across the country and included employees at various groups and levels as well as English and French groups. Comments from the focus groups were integrated in the questionnaire and a final layout was decided. The final draft was presented to COSO and approved. All Deputy Ministers were briefed on the content of the survey and asked to approve the project. The final questionnaire and project plan were presented to the Ministers responsible for approval.

As the department code was essential for the analysis of the data, it was decided that each department would receive their own questionnaire with their department code on the front page. Twenty-two small organizations were regrouped as one single department. Each organization was identified as an organizational unit. In addition, two organizations were coded under the small organization for collection, but later were separated. The Passport Office was treated as a small organization but was regrouped with Foreign Affairs and International Trade during processing. As well, the Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioners were coded as a separate department during processing.

As the organizational unit lists were coded with the same department number, it was easier to ensure that the proper list of organizational units would accompany the right questionnaire. The list of organizational units and the questionnaire were included in the return envelope by the printer.


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: May 1999 to June 1999

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Each department was responsible to get the questionnaire to their employees. Each department was given the choice to get their questionnaires sent to one location or to give Statistics Canada a list of addresses and contacts for local distribution. It was suggested to the departments to distribute the questionnaires at the same time as the pay stubs for the week of May 24th. However, the actual process was left to their own discretion. Once completed, the questionnaire was returned directly to Statistics Canada in a postage-paid return envelope.

All questionnaires received were divided by department and counted. The number of questionnaires received were captured and regular reports were given to TBS and departments. Questionnaires were checked to ensure that answers were present, identified by a sequence id on the cover page and batched in groups of 25 in preparation for data capture.

Only one manual edit was performed at the receiving phase. As the Organizational Unit code was critical to provide managers information for their unit, Q100 was browsed. In some cases, instead of writing the unit number, employees wrote the abbreviation letters of the unit. These questionnaires were put aside for further verification. The abbreviation was compared to the unit names of the department and when possible the proper unit number was written in Q100. When it was not possible to determine the proper unit number, a 'Not Stated' code was written.

The collection was extended until the end of July while the majority of questionnaires were received by the end of June. Departments were asked to remind their employees of the survey and asked them to return their questionnaires as soon as possible. Each department used a different approach to promote participation to the survey. Most used a letter from the Deputy Ministers and had information on their intranet site and other communications with their employees.

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

Error detection

The data capture of the 104,500 questionnaires received was done between June and August 1999. The capture was done using heads-down keying by a group of experienced operators. Standard quality control procedures were used to verify the error rate of the keying operations. Statistics Canada's minimum level of quality is an error rate of 3% when keying-in survey data. For the Public Service Employee Survey, it was determined that the error rate was less than one half of 1%.

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. An edit rule was applied that examined the flow of data from question 103 to 104. Any superfluous data was eliminated in the flow of data implied by the answer to question 103.

As well, two types of data inconsistencies were corrected. Approximately 2% (about 2,000) inconsistent salary range and occupation group responses were treated by assigning a not stated value to the occupational group. 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 people coded their province of work as being Ontario or Québec while the NCR had a separate code. In other cases, when regions were identified separately, the department was consulted and when applicable, personnel in the Regions were recoded to a regional unit.

For Q58 "In your current job, how many supervisors have you had over the last three years?", all responses with either 0 or 1 supervisor were grouped, and responses with greater than 5 were grouped with 5. That is, for Q58, the response group of "1" indicates 0 or 1 supervisor, and "5" for Q58 indicates 5 or more supervisors.


This methodology does not apply.


The weight calculated for the Public Service Employee Survey adjusts for the disproportionate response rates by occupational group within each federal department. That is, the weight compensates for the over and under representation of occupational groups within each federal department. For occupational groups that were over represented within the department, the weights are smaller than one. For occupational groups that were under represented within the department, 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 occupational group was under represented within the department. 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 that strongly agreed with the statement "I believe the work I do is important" is to be calculated, it is done by selecting the records for those people (Q1 = 1) and summing the weights of those people.

Note that the sum of the weights is equal to the total number of responses. That is the weights do not sum to the population counts. Therefore when releasing demographic estimates, no statements to that effect can be made.

Note further, that no adjustment for non-response in small departments was done, due to the proportion of small cells.

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 differ in a number of important respects from the survey 'master' file 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 confidentiality, the following actions were taken:

1. Suppression of some demographic variables

The following variables were completely suppressed from the microdata file:
- Department code (DEPT)
- Full-time / Part-time status (Q9)
- Years at current group and level (Q84)
- Years in current department (Q98)
- Employee status (Q99)
- Organizational unit code (Q100)
- Language requirement of the position (Q102)
- Language of service to the public (Q104)
- Aboriginal status (Q110)
- Disability status (Q111)
- Visible minority status (Q112)

2. Collapsing answer categories of some other variables

For the following variables, the answer categories were grouped in order to minimize sensitivity:
- Salary ranges (Q83M)
- Number of promotions (Q85M)
- Tenure in the Public Service (Q97M)
- Province of work (Q105M)
- Age groups (Q106M)
- Education (Q108M)

3. Special suppression for the Executive Group:

Because of the small size of the Executive group, only a few demographic variables were kept for this group (the other variables were put to "not stated" for all executives). The variables available for this group are:
- Salary range (Q83M)
- Province of work (Q105M)
- Age groups (Q106M)
- Gender (Q107)

4. Adding noise to the Weights:

The non response adjustment was performed by occupational groups by department. Therefore, the original weights could be used to identify specific departments. In order to eliminate this possibility, we applied some random noise to the weights while preserving the weight distribution.

5. Local suppression to eliminate the cells with less than 5 respondents:

Approximately 5% of the records were treated by local suppression when there were fewer than 5 responses in any cell of a table when all possible combinations of all demographic variables were cross tabulated. One or more of the demographic variables were treated by randomly assigning a "Not stated" value.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

The overall Public Service response rate for 1999 was 55%.

A number of sources had to be used to determine the response rates for the Public Service Employee Survey. While the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) provided the Incumbent System file containing information on the Public Service employees such as department, age, gender, occupational groups, first official language, region and salary, these population counts were sometimes inconsistent with those provided by individual departments. The data on the overall response rates by department were therefore based on information provided by the department.

The response rates for each demographic variable mentioned above were based on the population counts provided by the department, while using the TBS distributions of the subgroups for each demographic variable. That is, the percentage breakdown of the total population is based on the counts from the file obtained from the Treasury Board Secretariat Incumbent System.

Please refer to Section 8.1 (Response Rates -- Departments and Agencies) of the User Guide for detailed information.


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