Most workers in Britain stay in one job for less than two and-a-half years, with the average bill to employers of unwanted departures now hitting £600,000 a year.
According to a study by consultancy Reed Consulting, more than a third of employees now leave within their first year of employment and more than three quarters leave within three years.
The research highlights the growing phenomena of "job shopping", where employees move frequently between roles and organisations before committing themselves long-term, it added.
The cost of this to business is greater than anticipated, even when excluding intangible costs such as loss of expertise, business relationships and the impact on morale, said Reed.
There are also significant differences between what employers believe are the key causes of turnover and the actual reasons that employees leave, it added.
Employers largely failed to take into account the importance of providing opportunities for development, focusing instead on salary and benefits, which they often believed to be the largest cause of attrition.
In fact development opportunities were rated more important than any other factor by employees when it came to what made them decide to change jobs.
The top three causes of attrition as identified by employees were lack of opportunities for personal and career development, issues with the working environment and, only then, salary and benefits.
Intriguingly, these factors were consistent across all industry sectors, although the average tenure rates varied, said Reed.
Employees from the utilities sector stayed with their organisation the shortest amount of time (on average one year ten months), while manufacturers had the highest tenure, at three years three months.
The size of an organisation also significantly affected job tenure.
Employees in organisations with more than 5,000 employees stayed on average 11 months longer than employees in the smallest organisations (fewer than 50 employees).
Laura Frith, managing director of Reed Consulting, said: "With more than three quarters of employees leaving an organisation within three years and escalating costs associated with attrition, employee retention is one of the key issues for our profession to address."