The Saville Wave Professional Styles Questionnaire: A best-of-breed assessment of workplace behavior

The Saville Wave is a dynamic and powerful predictor of workplace behavior. In this article, we will unpack the key features and benefits of this innovative and world-leading assessment solution, with specific reference to how the Wave can be used to predict performance, enhance leadership, and provide a nuanced understanding of workplace behaviors.

Based on science

Before discussing how the Wave works, it is important to understand how it has come to be as widely used (and praised) as it is.

One of the key benefits of the Wave is its foundation in a tradition of research that spans 15 years of global data on workplace behavior. This includes over 30,000 ratings of potential that served as the criterion-related validation of the assessment. Based on this massive data pool, researchers have shown that the Wave is able to:

  • Reduce the likelihood of hiring poor performers from 1 in 5 (when traditional personality tools are used) to 1 in 50. In other words, end-users of the Wave are reducing their chances of making bad talent decisions from 20% to 2%!
  • In addition to its predictive power, the Wave has been shown to empirically reduce the occurrence of adverse impact in assessment, while at the same time improving the chances of delivering positive diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes in its assessments.

In the years since its first application, the Saville Wave has been used in more than 50 countries across the globe, further enriching its research data pool and enhancing the offering.

Unique, dynamic design

One of the key reasons the Wave is such a good predictor of workplace behavior (and ultimately, job performance), is found in its unique design.

Unlike more traditional behavior measures, the Wave questionnaire is dynamic. In other words, it has the capacity to interact with the user as the test is administered. Using its propriety “rate and rank” methodology, Saville dynamically delivers either normative or ipsative rating and ranking scales, depending on prior candidate responses.

In doing so, the questionnaire adapts to the responses received, and thus minimizes the opportunity for candidates to fake their responses or respond in socially desirable ways.

This technology ensures a more fair outcome for all candidates and assures end-users that the results they obtain from the Wave are reliable and valid, free from distortion and faking that plagues more traditional, non-adaptive questionnaires (For a more detailed treatment of these and other issues of best practice test design, see our recent article on cheat-proof testing).

In addition to this dynamic interaction, the structure of the Wave allows experts to gain insights not only into the likely workplace behaviors of candidates but also what drives their behavior (i.e. motivation) as well as their self-perceived talent in enacting such behaviors.

In addition, assessment experts have access to information on how an individual has interacted with the questionnaire, revealing issues related to the consistency of responses and overly negative or positive self-representation.

Such additional information allows for a more detailed and nuanced interpretation of a candidate’s behavior in the work environment, and consequently, allows for more meaningful and impactful assessment feedback to be provided.

Focused on what matters most in the workplace

An important differentiator of the Wave within the marketplace of behavioral measures is it sharp focus on workplace behaviors. Unfortunately, many behavior and personality measures currently in use have their provenance in clinical psychology and abnormal psychology. Such tools have been adapted from these measures and given a new “skin” to accommodate their use for business purposes.

But the Wave has been developed, from the start, to be a workplace, business-focused assessment. It, therefore, does not suffer from any of the disadvantages of clinically derived tools and moreover, measures highly relevant and work-relevant behaviors.

As an example, the Wave uniquely measures behavior that is directly related to such important workplace behaviors as:

  • Presenting in front of others
  • Working with technology
  • Networking with clients
  • Leading teams
  • Pursuing business opportunities
  • Delivering results
  • Creating strategies
  • Thinking innovatively

Compared to more traditional tools, the Wave is therefore a business-first assessment that only focuses on behaviors that are strongly predictive of workplace performance.

In contrast to more high-level approaches, the Wave also delivers granular, detailed information about what candidates enjoy doing, what they are good at, and areas of work that they are likely to prioritize. Indeed, the Wave measures 36 different dimensions of workplace behavior, elaborated by 108 specific facets of behavior.

One unique feature of the Wave Professional Styles Questionnaire is the detailed response patterns or style reporting that enable trained users to get deeper insights into the response style of candidates.

This opens a totally new dimension of insight for the trained user. These indicators include facet ranges, rating Acquiescence, consistency of responses, normative-ipsative agreement, and motive-talent agreement. 

These deep dives are covered extensively in our international Saville accreditation training course, which you can access by clicking this link.

Insightful and actionable reporting

In and of themselves, the base Wave reports (i.e. the Line manager, Personal, and Expert reports) contain a wealth of behavioral insight that enables practitioners and end-users to take action and make better talent decisions. But, Saville also provides additional reports, based on extensive research on important workplace outcomes, that further enrich the offering.

Additional reports available to users of the Wave include:

  • Coaching reports: Focused on developing competencies through assessment-based coaching
  • Development reports: Drawing on over 1200 practical development actions to promote focused development planning. Bridging the gap between developmental diagnosis and tangible action.
  • Work roles report: Highlights an individual’s most and least preferred roles in a working team and how to use these effectively when collaborating with others. This report can be the basis for powerful interventions and planning to build high-performance teams.
  • Entrepreneurial report: Identifies entrepreneurial potential, helping organizations to assess for and develop internal entrepreneurs who can bring innovation and business vigor to their teams.

In addition to these reports, Saville has increasingly focused on providing leadership data in the Wave’s reporting. In this regard, users of the Wave can gain insights into their leadership talent pool with reports such as:

  • Leadership risk report: Identifies potential risk areas of behavior and how to mitigate their influence on individuals and teams.
  • Leadership impact report: Identifies leadership potential in line with organizational outcomes and culture to select or develop high-impact, positive leaders for the business.

Apart from the reports already mentioned, the Saville Wave is also uniquely positioned to provide insights into sales-related behaviors and performance, with reports such as:

  • Sales expert report: Assesses eight key sales areas and identifies behaviors that are associated with top sales performance.
  • Sales development report: Helps to drive current sales performance and talent. The report targets key areas of development and highlights potentially overplayed strengths as well as providing practical developmental actions.
  • Sales environment fit report: Highlights which workplace situations individuals are most likely to be effective in and how they are likely to fit into existing sales environments.

A variety of delivery options and formats

Depending on the end user’s time, system, and budgetary requirements, the Wave can be delivered to smart devices such as smartphones or tablets, or to PCs (desktop and laptop).

In addition, the option exists to either use the flagship questionnaire, the Wave Professional Styles, which takes on average 35 minutes to complete and can provide more than 20 different reporting options, or the Wave Focus Styles, which takes around 13 minutes to complete and can provide 10 different reports.

Final thoughts and future directions

As a provider of globally relevant, best-of-breed assessment solutions and expertise to the local and international market, TTS has had the privilege of working with world-leading and awarded product providers and IOPs.

The Saville Wave is such a tool, with a wide application and an even more impressive track record of delivering highly reliable, highly predictive results.

In this regard, Saville has been awarded multiple accolades over the years, including being named the Recruitment Industry Supplier of the Year at the 2019 Recruiter Awards, and more recently, being shortlisted for both the 2021 ABP Workforce Experience Awards and the 2022 Supplier Innovation of the Year at Firm Awards.

Future directions for Saville assessments, and the Wave specifically, include their innovative Resilient Agility solution. This report, derived from either the Wave Professional Styles or Focus Styles questionnaires, identifies and helps develop individuals who possess emotional resilience that predicts thriving during times of transformation and change.

If you are interested in using the Saville Wave in your organization, or you would like to expand your existing use of this exciting and powerful tool, drop us a line at: or attend our Saville accreditation training by visiting the TTS training page.