Evaluating the employability paradox: When does organizational investment in human capital pay off?

Ricardo Rodrigues*, Christina L. Butler, David Guest

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


The paper explores the notion of the employability paradox which notes that while organizations investing in the career and competency development of their workforce can benefit from higher performance, they also risk losing more employable staff to competitors. Building on contributions from social exchange theory and signalling theory, we develop a model exploring the circumstances under which investment in career development benefits employees and organizations. We test our model in a longitudinal study following graduates entering the labour market. Our results show that when organizations signal that they care about employees by investing in their career development and individuals are receptive to such signals and proactively seek to manage their careers, investment in career development has a positive impact on organizational commitment and intention to stay with one’s employer. Our findings indicate that the idea of the employability paradox is simplistic and lacks theoretical and empirical support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1134-1156
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number9
Early online date23 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020


  • career development practices
  • employability paradox
  • employee retention
  • perceived employability
  • protean career


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