Assessing Your Clients’ Work Values: Another Way to Hone in on Occupational Matches

By Jennifer Greene and Melissa Messer


Work values reflect specific preferences for work environments that are important to a person’s satisfaction with his or her job. They are one of many important factors that can determine how well one is suited to different occupations. By helping clients understand their work values, the career counselor can explore with clients how jobs may be a good fit for them. This includes jobs that they would enjoy and jobs at which they are likely to excel. Work values are often assessed using work values inventories, examples of which are described below.

Theoretical Underpinnings

Many work values inventories are based on the Theory of Work Adjustment, first proposed by Dawis, England, Lofquist, and Weiss in 1964 and in their 1984 book, Psychological Theory of Work Adjustment: An Individual Differences Model and its Applications. This work came to be known as the Theory of Work Adjustment. Further work by Rounds, Henly, Dawis, Lofquist, and Weiss (1981) expanded the theory and outlined 20 vocational needs along with six underlying values: Achievement, Comfort, Status, Altruism, Safety, and Autonomy.

Today’s Work Values and O*NET

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET, http://www.onetonline.org/) provides an occupational classification system and a database of occupational information available to the public in an easy-to-use, searchable, online format. The O*NET provides information for more than 1,100 occupations in an easily searchable Web-based format. The information provided by the O*NET is organized into six broad domains, represented by the O*NET Content Model framework (https://www.onetcenter.org/content.html). Three of these domains are worker oriented (i.e., worker characteristics, worker requirements, and experience requirements) and three domains are job oriented (i.e., occupational requirements, workforce characteristics, and occupation-specific information).

Within the worker characteristics domain are four descriptors: abilities, occupational interests, work styles, and work values (O*NET, 2016). The Theory of Work Adjustment was used in the O*NET classification to develop work value characteristics. The current work values model used by O*NET includes six constructs:

  • Achievement

  • Independence

  • Support

  • Relationships

  • Working Conditions

  • Recognition

There are many work values inventories available, most of which are based on the Theory of Work Adjustment and/or the O*NET Content Model. Below is a list of some available work values inventories. Work values assessment can and should be used in conjunction with other measures of workplace interests and personality, which are also listed below. Please note these lists are not exhaustive, but intended to give you an overview of the areas discussed.

Work Values Inventories


Year Published

Work Values Inventory (WVI)


Work Motivation Scale (WMS)


Career Values Scale (CVS)


Work Importance Profiler/Locator (WIP/WIL)


Career Orientation Placement and Evaluation Survey (COPES)


Values Scale (VS)


Career Motivation Profile (CAMOP)


Kuder Work Values Assessment (KWVA)


Career Values Assessment



Work Styles Inventories


Year Published

Working Styles Assessment (WSA)


Workplace Personality Inventory II


Personal Work Style Survey (PWSS)


Work Personality Index (WPI)


Workplace Personality Profile (WPP)


Hilson Personnel Profile/Success Quotient (HPP/SQ)



Career Interests Inventories


Year Published

Self-Directed Search (SDS), 5th Edition


Strong Interest Inventory-Revised Edition (Strong)


Interest Profiler


Campbell Interest & Skills Survey (CISS)


Kuder Career Interests Assessment (KCIA)



Selecting Appropriate Measures

Given the number of career inventories available, it is important to examine several aspects of an instrument when selecting it for use with your clients. Below are some tips for making an informed decision. For more information about selecting appropriate measures, see Dr. Janet Wall’s article about the Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education at http://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/5036/_self/CC_layout_details/false.

  • Use instruments that have reported reliability data such as the internal consistency for each scale (i.e., Cronbach’s alpha) and test-retest reliability (i.e., correlations between two separate testings of the same person.) Typically, you want both Cronbach’s alphas and correlations to be greater than .80.

  • Use instruments that have reported validity data such as scale intercorrelations and convergent validity (similar results produced from the instrument and other similar instruments)

  • Use instruments that have representative normative samples. Generally, you want to use assessments that have used samples that closely match the demographic breakdown (age, gender, race/ethnicity) of your population.

  • Use instruments that have been published recently. Older assessments tend to be based on normative samples collected many years ago and may have outdated items that make them less applicable to today’s clients.

  • Consider the mode of administration. Some inventories can be taken and scored online, while others are only available as paper-and-pencil forms.

Practical Applications

The results of a work values inventory are most beneficial when used in combination with other career inventories, O*NET, other career resources, client interviews and professional judgement. For example, we recommend using a work values inventory in conjunction with a career interest inventory and a work styles inventory when assessing a new client, in order to gain a more complete picture of their workplace values, interests and personality. Use of these inventories can be helpful in generating a list of potential occupations to explore or in confirming career possibilities. Moreover, the O*NET and other career resources can be used to learn more about these identified jobs. It is important to keep in mind that no single resource or assessments can provide your client with one “right” choice, but using appropriate career inventories can help them focus on some of the more likely possibilities.




Jennifer Greene, MSPH is a Senior Research Assistant at Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR), which is a leading publisher of psychological assessment materials. She earned the Master of Science in Public Health at the University of South Florida in 2012. She is currently pursuing the PhD in Educational Measurement and Evaluation at the University of South Florida. She co-authored the Work Values Inventory (WVI), which will be published later this year. She also co-authored the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder (VMOF) and the Leisure Activities Finder (LAF), both of which are supplements to the Self-Directed Search (SDS), a top career counseling tool published by PAR. You may contact her at 813-449-4011 or e-mail: jgreene@parinc.com.


Melissa Messer, MHS is a Senior Project Director at Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR), Editor of NCDA Career Developments magazine, and a member of the NCDA Veterans Committee. She earned the MHS in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Florida. Then she joined PAR’s Research and Development team. For the past 14 years, she has been developing assessments, including the 5th Edition of John Holland’s Self-Directed Search, the Working Styles Assessment and the Work Values Inventory, which will be published later this year. You may contact her at 813-449-4011 or e-mail: mmesser@parinc.com.


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