Summary of the Evaluation of the Public Service Employee Survey
Internal Audit and Evaluation Bureau, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
- The Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) has been conducted every three years since 1999. It collects public service employees’ opinions on their engagement, leadership, workforce and workplace.
- In 2014, 182,165 public service employees in 93 departments and agencies completed the survey.
- To deliver the 2014 PSES, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat spent $2.3 million in salaries and services, of which $1.2 million was paid to Statistics Canada, which administered the survey.
Evaluation scope and methodology
- The evaluation examined the PSES from its inception in 1999 to 2014 but focused on the 2014 PSES, in particular, program design, activities, outputs and immediate outcomes.
- Performance, relevance, and alternative approaches to design and delivery were examined.
- The evaluation was based on multiple sources of evidence:
- a review of PSES foundational documents
- a trend analysis of PSES results
- an examination of public service employee surveys in Canada’s provinces and territories, and in the US, the UK and Australia
- interviews with deputy heads, Secretariat executives and other stakeholders
- a survey of primary users (PSES departmental champions and heads of human resources)
Evaluation constraints and limitations
- Employee perspectives are not represented in the evaluation other than those of union representatives.
- Non-participating departments and agencies were represented by one interviewee from a small agency.
- Jurisdictions were reluctant to release expenditures.
- Changes to response scales limited the trend analysis that could be performed on PSES historical results.
- Improvements lead to a high-performing and engaged public service that delivers on government priorities now and in the future.
- Extent to which PSES results inform decisions about people management
Need for program remains – Yes
- The PSES fulfills a critical need to regularly assess employees’ engagement and their views on key aspects of their jobs and their workplace.
Program aligns with government priorities and Secretariat roles and responsibilities – Yes
- Ministerial mandate letters support public service effectiveness, productivity and well-being. Budget 2016 supports evidence-based improvements through the use of employee surveys.
Performance: Immediate and intermediate outcomes being met; some changes needed to achieve long-term outcome
- The PSES offers valuable insight into employees’ opinions on their engagement, workforce, workplace and leadership, and it helps identify concerns in these areas.
- Actions taken to address identified concerns are evident.
- Government-wide results show some positive change over time, but they show negative and little to no change in several areas.
- The PSES is effectively designed and administered, and there have been continuous efforts to improve it. There are, however, four significant concerns:
- the frequency of the PSES’s iterations
- the time lag between fieldwork and the release of results
- limitations in the analysis of PSES data
- adequacy of government-wide support to address identified issues
- The Secretariat should develop a strategy to proactively address government-wide issues highlighted in the PSES results. Such a strategy should include the Secretariat:
- playing a stronger leadership role in government-wide initiatives for change while respecting individual deputy head accountabilities
- bringing greater consequences to departments and agencies regarding their PSES performance, depending on their level of improvement
- taking specific actions to address those issues that could benefit from government-wide intervention.
- The Secretariat should develop a plan to enhance the PSES program that addresses the following:
- providing timelier insights to departments and agencies on employee engagement, the workplace, the workforce and leadership issues
- facilitating ongoing consultation with organizations and continual improvement of survey tools and products
- enabling a wider range of analysis, including collecting additional targeted data
- ensuring that the PSES represents the state of the art in survey methodology and remains pertinent to key user and stakeholder groups
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