Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Symbol of the Government of Canada

ARCHIVED - Service Improvement Initiative - Toolbox

Warning This page has been archived.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.

Employee Surveys

Purpose of an employee survey:

Organizations may conduct employee surveys as part of their service improvement initiative for a number of reasons. Employee involvement, commitment and participation are key elements of any organization who would like to improve service for citizens. Management needs the opinions of the work force to identify areas for improvement and should, therefore, provide regular opportunities for employees to participate in the decision-making process.

A well-handled employee survey can catalyze or enhance communication, partnerships with employees, and motivation. Morale, productivity, commitment and organizational vitality can be substantially improved by listening to and acting on employee suggestions.

Employee surveys can:

  • allow an organization to tap employees as a resource to focus on areas within the organization that can be improved. Survey data can identify the highest-priority elements of the organization's service improvement initiative;
  • establish baseline data for an organization in terms of the degree to which it meets the criteria of a quality services organization. From this baseline data, the organization can measure progress made in implementing or improving its quality services initiative. The baseline data could also help organizations identify, understand and adapt current outstanding practices that will provide the basis for further improving performance;
  • obtain input from employees, thereby encouraging participation in the change process and fostering buy-in; and
  • identify training and learning needs to support the service improvement initiative.
  • gather perceptions on other key elements of a service improvement initiative, such as leadership and recognition programs.

Success criteria:

To ensure the quality and the validity of the survey some methodological and strategic decisions will be required to:

  • Determine whether to use the whole employee group or a representative sample;
  • Involve staff representatives in the first step of the process;
  • Control the size of the questionnaire by focusing on what is really important;
  • Design a comprehensive questionnaire ensuring that employees understand the meaning of each question and are able to answer it in preliminary test;
  • Dedicate adequate resources and time;
  • Clearly communicating the survey purpose and its link with the organizational mandate;
  • Use management representatives to send the survey and raise the importance of this consultation by on-going communications;
  • Send a reminder memo in order to increase the participation rate;
  • Ensure the confidentiality and anonymity to participants;
  • Ensure independence of the process in delicate situations by using external resources;
  • Integrate staff satisfaction within organizational performance indicators;
  • Use appropriate resources and mechanisms to conduct statistical analysis;
  • Act on results.

As part of the survey process, the organization should determine if the survey met its stated objectives. The organization might assess success against the following criteria:

  • the employee participation rate;
  • the extent the survey assisted in the design of the service improvement initiative;
  • the extent to which the data helped measure progress in defined areas;
  • the extent to which the survey data was integrated with other service improvement data to design or improve its quality services initiative;
  • the extent to which follow-up surveys are used to measure progress in its quality services initiative; and
  • the extent to which feedback loops were built into the survey to give employees information on survey results and on actions deemed necessary by those results.

Content of an employee survey:

An employee survey should focus on satisfaction and priorities for improvement in five areas:

  • Communication
  • Management behaviours
  • Human resources management and development
  • Teamwork, staff relations and work facilities
  • Service delivery

Further Information

For more information on employee surveys, please consult:

Canada. Statistics Canada, 1992. Guide to Conducting an Employee Opinion Survey in the Federal Public Service. Special Surveys Group, Statistics Canada.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 1999, Public Service Employee Survey.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 1995. Employee Surveys. Quality Service Guide VI.

Edwards, J. E., M. D. Thomas, P. Rosenfeld, and S. Booth-Kewley, 1996. How to Conduct Organizational Surveys: A Step-by-Step Guide. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Harwood, Paul L, 1998. Employee Surveys in the Public Service: Experience and Success Factors. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Management Development.