European firms face a "mass employee exodus" over the next three years as the economy in the euro zone recovers and workers search for better opportunities, new research has found.
The study, entitled "Preparing for Take-Off", conducted by management consultancy Hay Group and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in the U.K. forecasts that employee turnover will begin to accelerate in Europe from 2014 as the region exits a recession.
Turnover will spike to 18.7 percent in 2016, up from 9 percent in 2012. In all, 39 million workers are expected to quit and find new jobs as labor markets improve.
According to Ben Hubbard, director at Hay Group, the economic downturn, government austerity measures and the euro zone crisis have restrained employee turnover rates across the region.
"Dissatisfied workers with pent up frustrations now pose a significant flight risk. As the economy recovers and labor markets improve, they will be looking for alternative employment opportunities, leaving their former employers facing significant hiring costs and crucial talent gaps."
The increase in turnover will initially be driven by workers in information and communications technology (ICT), professional services and the health sector, said Hubbard, followed by the retail sector which is expected to pick up from 2016 as consumer spending recovers.
According to Hay Group, firms need to prepare themselves for the mass exodus by addressing issues such as compensation.
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"Some 53 percent of staff express concern about the fairness of their compensation and 43 percent do not believe that their company demonstrates care and concern for its workforce," the report found.
"Make no mistake: we are in the eye of a turnover storm. You must give serious thought to what drives employee commitment, and where you need to prioritize to protect retention as job markets recover," Hubbard added.
—By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave; Follow her on Twitter