Morale plunges at PSC

Communication is key, Catherine Read is accustomed to telling deputy ministers. As the Yukon's Public Service Commissioner, it's her job to review annual engagement surveys, which capture the rises and dips in morale across Yukon's public service.

Communication is key, Catherine Read is accustomed to telling deputy ministers.

As the Yukon’s Public Service Commissioner, it’s her job to review annual engagement surveys, which capture the rises and dips in morale across Yukon’s public service.

Do as she says, not as she does.

Morale across the Public Service Commission plummeted this year by 12 percentage points – by far the biggest drop seen in any government agency.

“It’s not too good, is it?” Read asked coolly, upon releasing the results yesterday.

Read took over as commissioner last autumn, replacing Pat Daws, who reigned for 17 years. She took it upon herself to knock heads and shake up the organization.

Not everyone appreciated these changes, judging by the slumping scores.

Read attributes the morale plunge in part to timing. When the survey was distributed, staff knew big changes were coming. But they hadn’t been announced yet.

“There was shock in some areas, because the Public Service Commission has been extremely stable.”

The commission’s engagement score now sits at 62 per cent. That’s still slightly above the government average, of 60 per cent.

That overall engagement score remains the same as last year. It’s considerably below the government’s first score, in 2007, of 64 per cent.

That puts the Yukon slightly below the national average, at 66 per cent. Read acknowledged the territory’s efforts to boost engagement scores has not been “highly successful,” and she’s planning a “concerted effort so that this won’t happen again.”

The biggest gripes continue to have to do with recognition of good work, the fairness of hiring and promotion practices and the performance of senior management.

Many government workers continue to suspect nepotism is alive and well within territorial offices. That’s despite an audit conducted by Read’s office, which found hiring practices to be above board.

Civil servant satisfaction matters, because the public is more likely to trust institutions staffed by engaged staff, said Read.

The territory’s bean-counters remain the cheeriest of bureaucrats, according to the study. Finance staff engagement rose four points, to 77 per cent.

Education and Economic Development also rose four points, to 62 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively.

Three points were gained by the Executive Council Office, Highways and Public Works, and the Workers’ Compensation, Health and Safety Board. Their scores rose to 75 per cent, 55 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively.

The liquor, lottery and housing corporations gained one point, to 59 per cent.

The Justice Department remained stalled at 52 per cent, where it stood last year.

Tourism and Culture dropped one point, to 54 per cent.

Environment fell two points, to 67 per cent. Community Services lost three points, hitting 55 per cent.

And Energy, Mines and Resources fell four points, to 62 per cent.

The survey, which draws on comments from 2,134 employees, was conducted by the polling firm Ipsos-Reid earlier this year. The response rate this year slumped to 45 per cent, down from 52 per cent last year.

Read attributes this to “survey fatigue.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.