Data and methods Accepted project proposals The employability paradox and sustainable careers

Author: Yvonne van Rossenberg, Beatrice van der Heijden, Sofja Pajic
Affiliation(s): Institute for Management Research & Nijmegen School of Management (NSM), Radboud University
Keywords: Employability, commitment, wellbeing, sustainable careers
Research question(s):

The overarching research question is: What is the relationship between employability, organizational commitment and sustainable career outcomes?


  1. How do the relationships between employability and organizational commitment fluctuate and change over time?
  2. What are the potential individual and organizational predictors and moderators of the relationships between employability and organizational commitment?
  3. How are employability and organizational commitment intertwine in affecting sustainable career outcomes (i.e., health, happiness, productivity)?
  4.  Do employability and commitment interact in affecting different sustainable career outcomes (i.e., health, happiness, productivity)?




Employability, that stands for continuous acquiring, fulfilling, or creating of work through the optimal use of competences, has been repeatedly related to positive outcomes for both individuals and the organizations. However, there is a recurring debate around the (potential) trade-off between employability and decreased organizational commitment of more employable workers. Such paradox is referred to as employability management paradox. The existing empirical evidence provides inconclusive answer to a question if increasing employability (e.g., through organizational investments) might lead to more employable workers being less committed to their organization, potentially leaving as soon as they see better chances elsewhere?


On the one hand, building on the human capital theory, employability is expected indicate workers more suitable for the external labor market, implying their reduced need of commitment to a single organization. On the other hand, building on the social exchange theory, employability is likely to be the result of the reciprocal exchange between the worker and the organization, which is likely to indicate that more committed workers become more employable. Hence, a more nuanced insight into the employability paradox, and its further consequences for different individual and organizational outcomes is needed.

The aim of this study is to twofold. First, we hope to provide more conclusive empirical evidence on the relationship between employability and organizational commitment, unvailing the employability management paradox. Second, because the organization is only one of many parties to benefit from the investment in employable workforce, we aim to place the employability paradox in the broader picture of a sustainable career that also encompassess health (i.e., physical and mental) and happiness (i.e., wellbeing and satisfaction). HBS data will enable us to test alternative hypotheses related to the employability paradox and sustainable careers over time, as well as to assess individual and organizational factors that might moderate these relationships.