The 2020 Public Service Employee Survey results are in

May 13, 2021 - Defence Stories

Public Service Employee Survey

Last winter, you participated in the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) to express your opinions on a range of important themes to help shape the future of the Public Service and work environment of the Department of National Defence (DND).

Overall results for all public service departments, including DND, are now available and individual Level 1 organization results will be released on May 20, 2021.

As the PSES Champion for DND, I strongly believe the survey is a valuable tool to identify ways to improve, innovate, and contribute to a highly engaged and productive workforce. The results are also helping us understand how the unprecedented events of the past year impacted our workforce.

The 2020 survey measured federal government employees’ opinions about your engagement, leadership, workplace well-being, compensation, diversity and inclusion, harassment and discrimination, and the impacts of COVID-19. These results will help us better understand how you and your workplace have been affected by the pandemic and social injustices over the past year.

The department’s overall response rate for the PSES was 53 per cent, five per cent higher than 2019, compared to an average of 61 per cent across the federal Public Service. For those who completed the survey, I would like to thank you for taking the time to provide us with your invaluable feedback.

The results:

Initial departmental (L0) results indicate that our efforts towards solving employee issues with the Phoenix pay system are working and we are making significant strides in this area. The survey identified that employees feel the department worked hard to support them during the pandemic. We also learned that employees feel the department implements initiatives to promote diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism, however continued efforts are required to ensure we eliminate systemic barriers and foster an inclusive and equitable workplace.

Here are some additional insights into what we learned:


The number of DND employees who reported being affected by pay issues dropped from 59 per cent in 2019 to 39 per cent in 2020. While DND is still trailing the federal Public Service, work in this area is closing the gap (+23 percentage points in 2019 vs +2 percentage points in 2020).


DND leadership has worked to enhance workforce satisfaction through newsletters, town halls, and a variety of other activities and events such as Deputy Minister vlogs and Twitter updates, Coffee Talks, and the Women’s Speed Empowerment event. Results from the 2020 survey show progress in that both perceptions of leadership in relation to immediate supervision and to senior management improved (both increased by six percentage points).


For the fourth year in a row, DND respondents were less likely to want to leave their department within the next two years than when compared to the federal Public Service (22 per cent vs 24 per cent for the Public Service). However, the Department’s 2020 results trail the Public Service in indicators related to career advancement. Less people felt that they receive opportunities for promotion within the department (-9 percentage points), support from their supervisor with regards to their career goals (-5 percentage points), meaningful recognition for work well done (-6 percentage points), or clear work objectives (-4 percentage points).


Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives have been front of mind in DND’s actions over the last three years, as has been the case across the Public Service. To better understand how initiatives are impacting the public service culture, Treasury Board added new anti-racism questions to this year’s survey. While 7 per cent of the DND workforce and more broadly in the Public Service agreed that their department implements initiatives that promote anti-racism in the workplace, only 10 per cent (both DND and Public Service) are satisfied with how concerns or complaints about racism in the workplace are resolved. While respondents who identified being a victim of discrimination in the last 12 months remained unchanged at 7 per cent, respondents who indicated they were victims of harassment over the last year dropped 2 percentage points and is now at 12 per cent, one point higher than the Public Service (11%).

As we know, a new Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture organization has been recently created to further the department’s effort to eradicate all forms of improper conduct, discrimination, biases, harmful stereotypes and systemic barriers across Defence.

Workplace Well-being

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted DND’S workforce and the Public Service as a whole. Overall, public service employees felt that their departments has worked hard to support employees struggling because of the pandemic but DND’s results lagged behind the Public Service on this issue (81 per cent of the Public Service felt this way while 76 per cent did among the DND respondents). However, the share of responding DND employees “feeling emotionally drained at the end of a work day” was lower than in the Public Service (29 per cent vs 31 per cent). It is also worth noting that, following the Department’s efforts to implement health and wellness initiatives, a higher level of DND respondents described their workplace as being psychologically healthy this year (60 per cent in 2019 to 66 per cent in 2020).

Defence has made progress in some areas, however, the results also show us where we can do better. We are committed to acting upon areas that you have indicated require improvement. In the coming weeks as L1 results become available, we will continue to work across the organization to determine how best to assess areas of concern.

What’s next?

In the coming weeks, your managers and senior leaders will review the survey results and identify ways to address the conclusions. I will engage with your L1-identified champions to move forward on tangible and measurable actions on the issues identified. This important step will strengthen an already strong Defence Team and improve how we conduct business.

I am committed to championing targeted and evidenced-based action plans that demonstrate progress towards improving outcomes for our employees. Your feedback helps us achieve these goals and meet the commitments set out in Canada’s Defence Policy (accessible only on the National Defence network).

Thank you,

Julie Charron,
Assistant Deputy Minister (Review Services)
Public Service Employee Survey Champion

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