Comparison of the OPQ with the Saville Consulting Wave Personality Assessments

It is difficult to switch from a psychometric test that you may have been using for many years to a new personality assessment that you may have heard relatively little about. We know this because we go through the same process.

When in doubt, busy humans sometimes think it’s best to leave things as they are. However, after spending just a few minutes researching what really hits the Saville Wave rating range, we decided it was a “no-brainer”, as they say in Australia! It really makes sense … read on!

The original author of the OPQ is Professor Peter Saville. Professor Saville was in fact the ‘S’ for SHL (‘H’ stands for Holdsworth and ‘L’ for Limited). He is responsible for the new Saville Wave, developed by him and his team at Saville Consulting. You have commented in relation to the older OPQ that it was a great test in its day.

However, today, we need newer, more modern and innovative tests that are relevant to a new and constantly evolving workplace. By looking at both the design of the Saville Wave and the content of the questions, it is immediately apparent that the questionnaire better reflects the current workplace. The OPQ was written about 25 years ago. There was some update of the questions in 1988, but mainly the items reflect the world as it was years ago.

Saville Wave has captured the modern world by asking questions related to networking, engaging others, comfort level with information technology, written communication, receiving feedback, encouraging others, developing strategies, identifying business opportunities, speed learning, taking responsibility for big decisions, creating reports, sticking to decisions and more.

Remember, many of these concepts did not really exist more than 20 years ago; networking, for example, was a completely different ball game in the pre-internet world. Not to mention the fact that most of us didn’t have to deal with IT unless we were in an IT job, whereas today a large portion of the workforce must use computers. However, this not all.

While the OPQ was validated after production, the Saville Wave was designed within a model focused on research and validation. This meant that all the questions were internationally validated prior to publication. These results were later published in the British Psychological Society’s Selection and Development Review.

Additionally, the Saville Wave includes completely new scales that were not available on the OPQ all those years ago. For example, Wave can directly assess strategic thinking, learning styles, self-confidence, motivation of others, conflict resolution, and integrity.

In terms of measuring different facets of behavior, the OPQ measures only the dimension level (scale) and does not report on individual facets of behavior. For example, “persuasive” is made up of the facets “sell”, “negotiate” and “convince”, but they are not independently validated or scored. Saville Wave, on the other hand, provides a very rich performance at the facet level.

For Full Wave there are 109 separately scored facets. Facets provide information on unique areas of individual difference and therefore facilitate a better diagnosis of development and adaptation to the individual’s work.

Another innovation within Saville Consulting Wave is that it has been designed to assess both talent and motive. This is useful as it can highlight, for example, that while a candidate is not very good at problem solving, they will give it up and walk away and even do their best to improve. However, although a candidate is very good at creating novel solutions, they prefer to go for tried and tested ones.

Saville Wave distinguishes both effectiveness and motivation for 36 styles of behavior. This provides rich diagnostic information for selection, location, and development, and is key to predicting sustained performance.

The pattern underlying any personality assessment is a crucial factor in both the validity and usefulness of the tool. Wave is built from a unique behavior model with a common language to measure and match, behavior style, motivation, competencies, culture, organizational environment, and 360-degree performance. It is fully integrated from the start. OPQ is not multidimensional and relies on different measures and different models to arrive at total solutions.

When evaluating the personality of a potential worker or when evaluating a current owner as part of a development process, we look for a true picture of that individual. There are many tests available on the market and many of them really do not hit the mark. For example, evaluations that aim to paint a picture of your candidate based on 4 simple scales!

While the OPQ has always been a respected test, it offers a choice of ratings (normative) or ratings (ipsative) with a strong preference from practitioners for ipsative as it controls for the social desirability response. Both ratings and rankings have unique advantages and disadvantages. In the case of (ipsative) classifications, the resulting profile artificially exaggerates the good and bad characteristics. It is not possible to be good at everything or bad at everything. Therefore, we do not get a real picture of the candidate.

With the revolutionary combination of ratings and rankings in a dual dynamic format, Wave provides the most faithful picture of an individual’s self-reported style to date. This provides greater validity over the normative and ipsative scores themselves. This contributes significantly to improving the validity and a more realistic image of the individual.

Also, although the OPQ can report on the socially desirable response, it cannot focus on it. By reporting statistically significant differences between ipsative and normative scores, the Saville Wave identifies exactly where the distortion is likely to have occurred.

A burning question on the minds of those who choose the test is “how long does the test take to complete?” For the OPQ, it takes about 1 hour to complete the ipsative version alone. It does not provide information on motivation or cultural adjustment, or on individual facets of behavior. Compare this to the Saville Wave, which takes about 35 minutes to complete and includes effectiveness and motivation scores for 36 dimensions and scores for 109 individual facets of behavior.

Provides ipsative, normative, and combined profiles in a single questionnaire. Additionally, Wave reports on cultural / environmental enhancers and inhibitors. If even that is too long for your busy folks, the Saville Wave Focus, the shorter version of Wave is even shorter, taking around 15 minutes to complete, and yet offering exceptional reliability and validity.

Finally, the reason to use a personality assessment in the first place is to predict job performance. Saville Consulting has referred to this as “horsepower.” The technical term is Criterion validity and this has a direct impact on ROI. The higher the validity, the better people’s decisions. OPQ has good validity.

The mean validity of the published composite scale is around 0.38. This is the average correlation of each scale with actual job skills. However, for the Saville Wave, the published average composite validity is 0.46 higher (approximately 20% more predictive).

Additionally, Wave predicts overall job competency at 0.38 and promotion at 0.59. The 75% validity of Wave is 0.4 or better and 25% is between 0.55 and 0.70. Leading correlates 0.7 with ‘Leading people’. Add this information to the study results published in the UK in the summer of 2008 which showed that Saville Consulting Wave passed all tests of the competition in the market in predicting job performance (including OPQ, 16PF, 15FQ +, Hogan Personality Inventory, MBTI, DISC and others). In our opinion, this is the biggest motivator to switch to the Saville Wave test.


– OPQ is a registered trademark of Saville & Holdsworth Limited

– Saville Wave is a registered trademark of Saville Consulting Group

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