Public Sector
February 25, 2013

Public service job satisfaction: the survey results

We often explore the challenges facing the pubic sector workplace today. It is instructive to go back two years to the results of the 2011 federal Public Service Employee Survey, that tell us what employees think about where they work.  Interestingly, the results have barely changed since 2008, which doesn’t bode well for future transformation.

Taken every three years, this is the latest feedback on what is going wrong and what is working in public service. The report is available here, and the model for management that it is based off of is available here. Below are some of the most interesting results, and to make for easy reading all percentages are based on the positive answers only (i.e. taking strongly agree and somewhat agree together).

The most discouraging:

  • The results of this survey show that many public service employees lack confidence in senior management’s competence and ability to communicate. Only 52% of those asked responded positivity to the statement “I have confidence in the senior management of my department or agency” (question 44). Only 45% agreed that “senior management in my department or agency makes effective and timely decisions” (question 45), and only 53% agreed that “essential information flows effectively from senior management to staff” (question 47).
  • Additionally, only 54% of public service employees asked are “satisfied with the way in which informal complains on workplace issues are resolved” (question 26), suggesting that they feel little recourse is possible through management for workplace woes.
  • Stagnation and conventionality are also issues. Only 56% of public service employees asked feel that they are “encouraged to be innovative or take initiative” (question 16).

The most fantastic:

  • The most positive results of the survey might be those regarding the use of both official languages in the workplace. Positive responses were in the high 80’s and 90’s with regards to availability of bilingual materials and training, and most felt that they could write, speak, and attend meetings in the official language of their choice (questions 2, 21, 3, 33, and 25).

 The most idiosyncratic:

  • Many responses to the survey produced complex answers. For instance, 84% feel that their job is a good fit with their skills, with most respondents strongly agreeing (question 19). However, only 65% agreed that their department hires the right people, with most respondents somewhat agreeing (question 35). It would seem that most public service employees believe that they are competent, but that they are the exception to the department’s hiring practices; a result that might say more about self-perception than about the public service. This might also be a response to perceived bias: only 58% believe that “the process of selecting a person for a position is done fairly” (question 36).
  • Also, while 82% of respondents said yes to the statement “I like my job” (question 7), only 64% would recommend their “department or agency as a great place to work” (question 51).
  • The perception of diversity also has mixed results. 88% of respondents agreed, most strongly, that “in my work unit, every individual, regardless of race, colour, gender or disability would be/is accepted as an equal member of the team” (question 27).  Conflictingly, however, many have reported discrimination on the job, the highest percentages coming in for sex and age (question 68).

Most public servants doubt that senior management “will try to resolve concerns raised in this survey” (with only 47% agreeing, question 46). But, according to the results of this survey, management interested in doing so should focus on: improving communication with staff and responding to their problems; encouraging the taking of initiative; taking steps to reduce the perception of bias in the hiring procedure; and, making it clear that harassment will not be tolerated.

Public service employees feel that the problems in their workplaces are recurrent and are still not being addressed. What do you think? Tell us in the comments!

 

 

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