This year's Building/Hays Montrose careers survey reveals readers' increasing awareness of the importance – and vulnerability – of their pensions. Victoria Madine rounds up the results
In a climate of mounting public concern about the fate of final salary pension schemes, it is perhaps not surprising that more than half of Building's readers are concerned about their retirement. In this year's Building/Hays Montrose careers survey, 54% of respondents said they were worried about their future pension provision and 24% expected to work beyond the current retirement age of 65.

For Graham Rice, managing director of Heery Construction, these results show that people are increasingly waking up to the problems surrounding the pensions industry. The falling value of shares and pension funds, people's increasing life expectancy and the trend for employers to make cuts in their pension contributions have caused pensions to hit the headlines over the past year.

"Five years ago, you'd never have got this result," says Rice. "There is a growing awareness in this country that if you want a reasonable standard of living post-retirement, you'll have to put in the money – and the years – because the state won't necessarily provide it."

Ian Walton, south-east regional manager at Building's survey research partner, recruitment consultant Hays Montrose, agrees that job hunters are becoming more savvy about pensions and are increasingly thinking long term. "When a client says they want the same salary at a new employer, they often mean that they want a rewards package that has the same value. If their pension provision gets reduced, they'll want to be compensated with a higher salary."

It's not just older employees who are anxious to secure adequate provision. Half the people surveyed are worried about pensions, even though most respondents are at least 20 years away from the usual retirement of 65. And almost 40% of respondents are in "good" final salary schemes, which usually offer two-thirds of the final salary in retirement and are considered the most generous pension packages available.

Richard Tewkesbury, actuary at wealth management consultant BDO Stoy Hayward, says these results could mean that some of those groups who traditionally did not have great concerns about their pensions – the young and those in generous schemes – are now worried. "One factor alarming those in good schemes is the possibility that these schemes will not continue or may even fail to deliver in full on the accrued benefits."

And there is plenty of cause for concern – nearly 10% of survey respondents said their company had switched from a final salary scheme to a money-purchase scheme in the past year. A money-purchase scheme carries no guaranteed retirement income; the employer and employee both contribute to a fund that is invested in stocks and shares. The pension is entirely dependent on the returns of this money and unlike a final salary package, the employer does not guarantee a particular level of retirement income.

But although awareness about pensions is growing, experts say there still isn't enough awareness about how schemes can affect your personal wealth. "I've spoken to people who have left our company – we have a final salary scheme – and have gone to work for an employer that doesn't have a final salary scheme without seeming to realise that the reduced pension provision has an effect on their wealth," says Rice. "There's still a lack of information about how to compute the value of pension schemes. People don't realise they could be walking away from hundreds of thousands of pounds."

Although an impressive proportion (23.8%) E E of respondents said they could envisage retiring after they reach 65, almost half expect to retire before they reach 60. Only 34% would leave if their employer reduced their pension.

Along with pensions, the survey found that good management is an important concern. Poor management is the most likely reason for someone to leave their job; 72% of respondents said they would leave if they faced management difficulties in the workplace. "People tend to leave managers, not companies," says Angela Baron, adviser in organisation and resourcing at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. "Poor management – having to work for people like The Office's David Brent – is a factor in a large number of job moves, although many jobseekers are reluctant to reveal this."

Andrew Daubney, personnel director at consulting engineer Buro Happold, agrees that personal relationships at work shape how employees feel about their employer. "We need good managers, with appropriate organisational support, to identify how best to use the talent they have in their teams. This would include such things as nurturing an environment where people feel comfortable about discussing performance and aspirations and trying to align these to business or personal goals."

The survey also suggests an increasing interest among construction professionals in striking a balance between work and home life. About 95% of respondents said the promise of flexible working hours and an improved work–life balance would be an incentive to change employer. The number of women who responded to the survey increased this year to 18% – from last year's low of 11% – but the fact that so many respondents felt an improved work–life balance was important suggests that this is an issue for both sexes.

Only one-fifth (21.8%) of respondents said they were very concerned about the lack of women and minorities in the industry – even though most thought that not enough young people were joining the industry. Iain Dennis, regional director at Hays Montrose, believes this figure shows the industry still does not understand some of its image problems. "Not enough people are worried about the sex ratio in construction, and I'm disappointed by this. If construction wants to truly tackle some of the stereotypes and encourage young people in, it needs to take this issue more seriously."


The results were compiled from 115 completed questionnaires. More than two-thirds of the respondents were consultants – architects, engineers and surveyors. Main and specialist contractors accounted for slightly more than one-fifth of those surveyed. Facilities managers made up a further 8%. More than one-third of respondents were aged between 25 and 34, and more respondents worked in southern England and London (86%) than in any other region. Some (53%) of the sample earned at least £30,000. Many thanks to everyone who filled in the survey. Magnums of champagne for the first five surveys out of the hat are on their way to Michael Parker from Maidenhead, Colin Oldham from Salford, Jo Argent from Reading, Len Arnold from the Isle of Man and David Francis from Lincoln.