Oversight and Investigations Sector’s Research and Development Plan

Table of Contents


The Public Service Commission (PSC) Research and Development Plan has been developed to outline the research and research-related activities to be undertaken, over the next two years, by the Data Service and Analysis Division (DSAD) within the Oversight and Investigations Sector (OIS) on behalf of the whole of the PSC. For the purposes of this document, research has been defined as:

…”the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge or data in a new and creative way to generate new concepts, methodologies and understandings. This could include synthesis and analysis of previous research which leads to the creation of new outcomes or tools.”Footnote 1

Research plays an important role at the PSC. Not only does the PSC research function support the oversight of the staffing system by providing insight on system-wide outcomes but it also supports learning, informs staffing policy development and adjustments, and provides analytical evidence to promote innovation in the staffing system.  

Therefore, the focus of the DSAD research agenda is to:

The research activities of DSAD can be clustered along three overarching themes:

Current Context

The vision of the PSC is to build a modern, impartial, and fair public service and its mandate is to promote and safeguard merit-based appointments and, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to protect the non-partisan nature of the public service. It fulfills its mandate by providing policy guidance, innovative staffing and assessment services, as well as by conducting effective oversight.

The PSC’s Integrated Business Plan clearly identifies the PSC’s priorities to achieve its Core Responsibility. These are to:

In April 2016, the PSC introduced a renewed appointment framework. This New Direction in Staffing (NDS) recognizes the need for organizations to adapt staffing strategies to their unique operating environment. In moving from a rules-based system to one that encourages managerial discretion, the PSC simplified its appointment framework and provided greater latitude for organizations to adapt their resourcing strategies to their unique organizational needs.

On January 22, 2021, the Clerk of the Privy Council released a Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service. This publication urges the Federal Public Service to “…take action in ways we know will be meaningful in addressing all barriers and disadvantages. Being a leader means taking an active role in ending all forms of discrimination and oppression, consciously and constantly challenging our own biases, and creating an environment in which our employees feel empowered and safe to speak up when they witness barriers to equity and inclusion. Inaction is not an option.”Footnote 2.

Research and the PSC Oversight Model

The PSC oversight of the staffing system model is made up of several interrelated activities including audit, investigations, survey methodology and research. This oversight model focuses on the following three fundamental objectives (see Annexe A for details):

Research has a supportive and collaborative relationship with each of the elements of the oversight model and the other PSC’s Sectors by providing evidence and intelligence on topics of interest that help orient and support work. In addition, oversight work and findings, in areas such as audit, also provide input on potential research topics.

Research Capacity for 2021-2023

The primary group conducting research within OIS is the Data Services and Analysis Directorate (DSAD). Considering that a significant part of DSAD’s resources are committed towards ongoing “day-to-day” activities (surveys, development work, reporting, data management, ad hoc demands for data analysis and data-related services), the research and development plan should also allow for contingencies and flexibility to address new emerging needs and future analytical requirements. As a result, research commitments need to be matched with available capacity.

As was the case with the 2019-2021 Research Plan, an emphasis will be placed on engaging and consulting with stakeholders from the beginning to the end of each project to ensure that research is aligned with PSC’s priorities. As a result, and taking into account the fact that research projects often span more than one fiscal year, we are once again proposing a biennial plan covering fiscal years 2021-22 and 2022-23. The Plan will be revisited and updated next year.

Although it is important to ensure that projects are directed towards addressing the research preoccupations of PSC’s internal and external stakeholders, DSAD recognizes that occasionally innovative research projects may not respond to pre-existing identified needs or interests but rather focus on anticipation of future necessities. Innovation can come in many forms including new tools providing hiring managers unique insights into employment demographics and diversity. Engaging in innovative research is likely to increase DSAD’s exposure to risks since the relationship between effort and outcomes is less predictable. By managing any identified risks and focusing on outcomes as well as learning, the PSC will be able to maximize the benefits derived from its commitment to innovative research.  

Consultations and Governance

Putting in place a research agenda and contributing to an evidence-based culture at the PSC is the outcome of a productive dialogue with the different sectors. To establish proposed topics and better understand PSC’s research priorities and interests, DSAD has conducted consultations with PSC’s employees through a message published in Le Point and organized individual sessions with key internal stakeholders. External stakeholders were also consulted in the development of the PSC Research and Development Plan for 2021-2023, including OCHRO and the PSC Employment Equity Research (PEER) Working Group with members from employee groups, unions, and multiple federal departments. These consultations have helped DSAD to identify the research topics as well as align its research and analysis with the needs of its internal clients and external stakeholders (see Annexe B for the proposed research topics identified during consultations).

By connecting with the PSC’s different senior management committees, OIS helps to ensure that research undertaken is rigorous, well-integrated, and relevant to the PSC’s mandate and federal public service priorities. The OIS’s Research and Development Plan for 2021-2023 will be reviewed and discussed broadly through the Executive Management Committee (EMC). 

Once approved, the plan will be shared with key external stakeholders including, but not limited to the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO). The objective will be two-fold: to provide an overview of the PSC’s research agenda and to seek partners for some of these projects. Partnerships could include various activities ranging from sharing data (where permitted by the Privacy Impact Assessment) to undertaking joint research.

The Research and Development Plan 2021-2023 is an evergreen document allowing for modifications along the way. In the process, stakeholders will be consulted regarding subsequent modifications. That way, the Research Plan is sufficiently flexible to adapt to new emerging needs and future analytical requirements.

Annex A: PSC System-Wide Oversight Model

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PSC System-Wide Oversight Model

Oversight Principles:

  • Support – Delegated, deregulated staffing system
  • Recognize – Co-accountability for integrity of the staffing system
  • Implement – System-wide timely improvements

Oversight Universe:

  • Compliance on Core Requirements
  • Staffing Environment
  • PSEA Intended Outcomes

Oversight Tools to the 3 components of the oversight Universe:

Compliance on Core Requirements

  • System-Wide Audits
  • Risk-Based Audits
  • Staffing Assessments
  • Investigations
  • Assessing Election Candidacy Requests

Staffing Environment

  • Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey
  • Process-Based / Targeted Surveys
  • Audit Questionnaires
  • Census and Labour Market Data

PSEA Intended Outcomes

  • Research and Studies
  • Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency Projects
  • Awareness – Political Activities

Oversight Objectives: Preventative approach based on early identification of risk leading to timely interventions in the staffing system (e.g., Policy and ADAI adjustments, improved program delivery, timely communications to stakeholders).

Annex B: Research Projects

Remaining Items on 2019-2021 plan:

# Proposed Topics Description/Research question(s)   Outcomes/Impacts Resources*/Timelines
1 Promotion Rate Study: Logistic Approach Following the recent study on EE Promotion Rate for Visible Minority Subgroups, we identified the need to develop an approach allowing the PSC to produce results on recent promotion trends. The current methodology uses a survival analysis which requires to go back in time several years. A logistic approach will allow for year to year comparison.
Provide year to year comparison of promotion rates for members of designated EE groups and subgroups. FTE: ½
Data: Administrative data and qualitative data coming from participants.
2 Survey of Non-Partisanship in Staffing (SNPS) analysis The second cycle of the SNPS was launched in March 2021, with an updated questionnaire. A formal analysis plan will be drafted separately. A comprehensive analysis of the SNPS responses and transparent data dissemination strategy. FTE: 2
3 Diversity and Inclusion Package Update A series of analysis on the topic of Diversity and Inclusion has been developed to look at the following:
  • Separation Trends for designated EE groups
  • Effect of Existing Public Servants applying on external processes
  • Effect of Non-Advertised appointments on designated EE groups
  • Citizenship analysis
  • EE promotion rate study for Visible Minority subgroups
This project implies updating existing studies and disseminating them on the Open Government Portal.
A package informing internal and external stakeholders on key analysis conducted by the PSC on the topic of Diversity and Inclusion. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative sources
Status as of November 2021: Package to be released in 2022.

New items on 2021-2023 plan:

# Proposed Topics Description/Research question(s) Outcomes/Impacts Resources*/Timelines
1 Impact of Official Languages on EE groups

Source: PEER WG  

Various EE groups have identified Official Languages as a barrier to their career advancement. The analysis will focus on multiple research questions through the establishment of a sub-working group reporting to the PSC Employment Equity Research (PEER) working group.

Q: Are EE group members applying to bilingual positions at the same rate as their counterparts?

Q: Are there factors that differentially impact the ability of EE group members to meet official language requirements?

Q: Are there any challenges in accessing second language training for EE members compared to their counterparts?

Provide evidence to inform policy discussions on bilingual status of positions and their impact on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This project will also help to identify barriers to designated EE groups to their career advancements. FTE: ½
Data: Administrative data derived from PSC data holdings, literature reviews, survey data and, where possible, qualitative data provided by PEER sub-working group participants. Summer 2021 Establishment of a sub-working group, roles and responsibilities and scope. Fall 2021 Work to be initiated following comments from the main PEER Working Group
2 Diversity and Inclusion Scorecard

Source: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS)

Client: Policy and Communication Sector, Corporate Affairs Sector

The public service has made clear commitments to increase diversity and inclusion in the federal public service. There is a need to monitor progresses on D&I in the workplace by analysing career progression of applicants, indeterminate staff and employees leaving the PS by comparing annual trends of related demographic variables

Q: What are key indicators informing us on the impact of the efforts being made to increase D&I across PSEA organizations? Indicators for consideration:

  • Employment Equity (EE) group/subgroup share of applicants
  • EE share of appointments (e.g. promotion, recruitment, acting)
  • EE representation in the federal public service
  • Use of EE restricted or organizational need selection processes
  • Breakdowns where applicable by program, department, etc.           
Provide timely evidence of the progress made for various Diversity and Inclusion initiatives undertaken across the PS. Combining information on representation and mobility in the public service into a single indicator will provide an overall sense on progress and the impact of policies and initiatives from year to year. This will guide policy discussions and identify best practices. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative sources, including data on applicant self-declaration and other D&I information from PSC data holdings and the EE self-identification data sourced from the Employment Equity Data Bank, based on most recent available information.
3 Poster Analysis

Source: DSAD

Client: Policy and Communications Sector (PCS), SBDS

The advertisement phase can be a source of barriers to applicants from various background. We propose to look at the effect of features on posters leading to an increase diverse pool of candidate.

Q: Which poster features lead to a diverse pool of candidate?

Q: What is the impact of education requirements on candidate’s diversity?

Identify best practices to attract a diverse pool of candidates and identify barriers during the advertisement phase. FTE: ½
Data: Administrative sources (Public Service Resourcing System [PSRS])
4 Barriers to EE into the EX groups


Client: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS)

A recent study on EE promotion Rate for members of Visible Minority subgroups showed that members of Visible Minority subgroups have lower promotion rates than their counterparts from the EX feeder groups into the EX categories. Need for more research on this issue was identified, as a next step to be undertaken by the PSC.

Q: What are the barriers faced by EE members when trying to reach the EX cadre?

Q: Are equity seeking groups equally represented in the EX Feeder Groups?

Q: Are EE members participating in promotion processes?

Provide evidence to inform policy discussions on barriers faced by designated EE groups when trying to reach the EX cadre. FTE: ½
Data: Administrative sources, Literature reviews, Survey data (e.g. SNPS)
5 Analysis of Students hired as casual with GBA+ lens

Source: Integration Committee, OIS Extended SMC

Client: Corporate Affairs Sector (GBA+ Team)

Updates to an analysis of students hired as casuals have been made for several years. During our last IC presentation, we were asked to look at the data using a GBA+ lens to investigate whether students who self-declared as members of designated EE groups were negatively impacted by this phenomenon. We know from previous analysis that casual employment is often an entry door to indeterminate and term positions and can therefore be an advantage relative to other candidates in future job opportunities.

Q: To what extent do students who self-declare as members of designated EE groups benefit from casual positions?

Q: To what extent are students registered in the FSWEP or RAP programs hired as casuals rather than as students?

Q: Of the casual appointments, how many are likely to have finished their academic studies vs how many are transitioning to other forms of employment in the public service?

Provide evidence to inform policy discussions on whether students who are members of designated groups are disadvantaged by this practice. FTE: ¼
Data: PSRS advertisement and application files and PSC staffing datasets
6 Integration and retention of EE students

Source: SBDS

Client: SBDS

The PSC has put together several initiatives to attract students of diverse background. However, we have no information on the long-term outcomes of those programs (i.e. student reemployment, bridging, casual/term/indeterminate career).

Q: To what degree are students who self-declare as members of EE groups retained and integrated in the Federal Public Service workforce?

Inform EE student programs on medium/long-term outcome of their programs. Provide evidence to inform the programs on issues/barriers faced by participants. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative sources (PSRS self-declaration and EEDB self-identification)
7 Impact of Non-Advertised Appointments

Source: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS) / SSAD

Client: SSAD, OIS Audit

Since the implementation of NDS, we have seen a constant increase in the proportion of Non-Advertised appointments. While Non-Advertised appointments provide flexibility to hiring managers, merit still must be met.

Q: What are the main reasons given when moving forward with non-advertised appointments?

Q: Do non-advertised acting appointments lead to non-advertised promotions? Is this propensity different for advertised acting appointment and advertised promotions?

Q: Do non-advertised appointments impact the hiring of EE members in the public service?

Provide evidence to inform policy discussions on the use of non-advertised staffing. Identify the impact of non-advertised acting appointments on career progression. Work will be done in collaboration with the Audit team to complement their work on the audit of non-advertised appointments. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative sources (e.g. SNPS)
8 Effect of Bill C-30 BIA on Permanent Residents

Source: DSAD

Client: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS)

Recent changes to the PSEA will change the preference given to permanent residents. The PSC should keep a close eye on the impact of this change. A previous citizenship analysis can be used as a basis for future analysis. 2021 Research Cycle: Current state analysis

Q: What is the application and recruitment rate of permanent residents?

Q: What are the barriers faced by permanent residents in being successfully recruited?

Q: What is the effect permanent residents have on EE groups’

2023 Research Cycle: Long-term effect/trend analysis

Q: Is there a change in applicants and volumes following the implementation of Bill C-30?

Q: What is the effect of Bill C-30 on hiring of permanent residents?

Q: Is there an impact on EE groups’ representation in the PS?

Measure the outcome of this legislative change to see if it impacts positively members of designated EE groups. Provide policy evidence on the impact of Bill C-30. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative sources (e.g. application data)
9 Effect of teleworking on hiring demographics

Source: DSAD

Client: TBS OCHRO/ Policy and Communication Sector (PCS)

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the move towards virtual and flexible work locations. At this point, no clear direction has been given on the use of virtual work locations. However, the use of flexible and virtual workspace could reshape the demographics of the PS population.

Q: What is the effect of teleworking and virtual work locations on hiring demographics (e.g. Diversity and Inclusion)?

Q: What is the effect of virtual work location on employee mobility (e.g. movement between departments, promotions etc.)?

Q: Does teleworking have an impact on employee retention?

Monitor changes to the hiring demographics as changes to work arrangements are being made across the Public Service. This can serve as evidence to stimulate policy discussions. FTE: ½
Data: Administrative sources, Literature review, survey
10 Evaluating mobility of equity seeking groups compared to their counterparts

Source: DSAD

Client: Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment – Action Plan

The EE Audit recommended that the PSC should work with other central agencies and employment equity groups to identify specific factors that impact success of employment equity groups and visible minority sub-groups within the hiring process and implement solutions.

Deliverable: Work with stakeholders to develop a better understanding of 'why' barriers exist for visible minorities in staffing system

Q: Are mobility rates in the public service experienced equally between equity seeking groups and their counter parts?

Evaluate the share of populations (equity seeking groups and their counterparts) in the public service that experienced a promotion, acting, or lateral appointment over time. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative sources
11 Exploring Perceptions of Equity-Seeking Groups

Source: EMC

In approving the 2021-23 PSC R&D Plan, EMC recommended the inclusion of a project to start generating data on Equity-Seeking Groups. Deliverable: DSAD to field a survey of public service employees who belong to one or more Equity-Seeking Groups to gather their views and perceptions on key themes covered by the SNPS.

Q: examine how federal public service employees who belong to one or more equity seeking groups perceive merit, fairness and transparency in the staffing system

Q: determine whether employees who are members of an employment seeking group have different perceptions of merit, fairness and transparency in the staffing system than other employees, and whether perceptions differ by gender

Q: explore the perceptions of managers who belong to one or more equity seeking groups compared to the perceptions of other managers.

Understand the collective perceptions of the staffing system among the various equity-seeking groups across the public service. FTE: ½
Data Survey data

Development Tools:

# Proposed Topics Description/Research question(s) Outcomes/Impacts Resources*/Timelines
1 Staffing Dashboard Improvements

Source: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS) / SSAD, Corporate Affairs Sector

Client: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS) / SSAD, Corporate Affairs Sector

A new iteration of the PSC Staffing Dashboard was released making the switch from an Excel based product to a web-based product. During our consultations, various stakeholders expressed their interest for additional content to be presented on the dashboard.

Q: What indicators can be added to the staffing dashboard?

Q: How can the data be streamlined to align with other PSC data products?

More relevant data points to assist HR professionals in their HR planning. FTE: ½
Data: Administrative data
2 Application Forecasting Tool Update

Source: DSAD

Client: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS) / SSAD, Corporate Affairs Sector

An assessment of the Application Forecasting Tool (AFT) predictions yielded that our predictions were inaccurate due to the large number of factors that had to be taken into considerations when predicting the number of applicants. An alternative visual interface will be developed to provide HR practitioners with more relevant information to estimate the number of candidates which will be applying to their specific HR process.

Q: How can the information on the potential number of candidates to a staffing process be presented?

An updated tool to provide visualization allowing HR practitioners in planning their HR processes. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative data
3 Annual Report Visualisation

Source: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS)

Client: Policy and Communication Sector (PCS)

The PSC annual report team needs to be able to manipulate data easily with the use of an interactive data tool. This project aims at equipping this team with the right data and tool to produce the PSC annual report.

Q: What tool does the PSC AR teams need?

A data tool allowing the AR team to access the data it needs to produce a relevant timely report. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative data
4 Public Service Employee Survey Bundle

Source: DSAD

Client: Corporate Affairs Sector

There has been an increased number of requests made to DSAD to produce internal aggregated data of PSES results. To meet demands in a timely fashion, a tool will be built to provide access to data to PSC employees.

Q: What tool do PSC employee needs to access PSES data?

A data tool which allows PSC employees to consult PSES data. FTE: ¼
Data: Administrative data
5 Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey Results Dashboard

Source: DSAD

Client: Oversight and Investigation Sector (OIS)
DSAD exploring the possibility of replacing Organizational Reports and Interactive Visualization Tool with a dashboard-type tool
  • on PSC extranet site
  • similar platform as the revised PSC Staffing Dashboard
Comparison with 2018 and 2021 public service-wide results and results for similar size organizations, where feasible (see Appendix 2 for proposed data tables)
A data tool which allows public service employees to view SNPS results for specific organizations and results. FTE: ¼
Data: Survey
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