Connection to community often goes hand-in-hand with the employee engagement needed to build a culture that draws workers.

This is a common thread among many of the companies on this year’s Star Tribune Top Workplaces list.

The owners of Re/Max Advantage Plus in Savage often invest in their employees’ volunteer passions with gusto to show support for workers’ communities.

Last month, Re/Max spent $500 on red noses so its agents and staffers could support a good cause, have some fun and prove it with goofy photos posted on the company website.

The Red Nose Day event not only raised funds for Comic Relief’s end-poverty campaign but boosted team spirit at the same time, said Re/Max Advantage Business Director Krista Christ.

“We do a lot of different things throughout the year,” she said. “All these community events are about getting the employees behind thinking about more than just ourselves. While they love the fact that we provide [employee] health insurance, they also know it’s very important to us to give back to the community.”

Re/Max, which ranked fifth on this year’s list of midsize companies, has 400 independent agents and 39 employees across 16 offices. The donations include causes from providing 1,000 tree seedlings to co-sponsoring the Jeans & Gems benefit to help battered women and showing up in droves to help with Tuesday’s annual MS Birdie Bash golf fundraiser in Prior Lake.

The drive to “give back” proved one key reason Re/Max Advantage and scores of other firms’ employees nominated their midsize companies for the Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces honor. Bell Bank, Pediatric Home Service, Right At Home and Counselor Realty joined Re/Max Advantage Plus at the top of this year’s list, partly because of their passion for volunteering, sponsoring charities and providing services, money and time to various causes and communities in need.

For the 50 “midsize” firms that made the list, employees said it took more than stellar pay and good benefits to make work worthwhile. Leadership in both their industries and their communities also were a factor.

Philanthropy, team building and doing service projects in the community made jobs and careers exciting, fun and rewarding, they said. Examples submitted to the Star Tribune and its survey partner, WorkplaceDynamics, were plentiful.

Phyllis G. Hartman, who serves on the Society of Human Resource Management’s expert panel on Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility, said employers often orchestrate charity events and outreach projects because it helps to attract and retain workers and builds loyalty from customers who like being associated with do-good businesses.

“Some companies really understand that such outreach efforts help recruit and retain workers. Employees, especially millennials, want to be with a company that is doing something impactful and not just making money,” said Hartman, who is based in Pittsburgh. Younger employees “will almost always ask, ‘How does this company make this world a better place?’ It’s not uncommon that they ask this even before asking about pay.”

At Fargo-based Bell Bank, with branches in Golden Valley, Woodbury and Alexandria, every employee gets two paid volunteer days plus $1,000 a year to give away to a charity of his or her choosing. The “Pay It Forward” program has funneled $10 million into community coffers to date. Bank staffers also sponsor 20 families at Christmas each year and teach 1,000 local students about personal finances.

“We truly care about those we serve, focusing on relationships in our ‘Bell family,’ ” said Chief Culture Officer Julie Peterson-Klein. “Our team demonstrates those values every day.”

Tactile Medical, which markets lymphedema and vein therapy devices, ranked No. 10 on Top Workplaces’s midsize list. Staffers there said they loved the employee community teams that head up blood drives, make sandwiches for the homeless, collect food shelf and shoe donations, and organize toy drives and charity walkathons.

AgStar Financial Services, ranked 14th, has donated more than $1 million toward high school and college scholarships, grants for emergency response equipment, and donations to county fairs and ag classrooms.

Derek Haubenschild, human resource manager at Specialty Manufacturing Co. in White Bear Lake, said it often takes a combination of workplace perks to make employees feel welcome, appreciated and as if they are contributing toward something larger than themselves.

Pay and employee benefits can’t do it all.

Specialty’s 250 employees get excited about the valve maker’s annual $60,000 United Way donations and the three needy families employees adopt each holiday season, Haubenschild said.

But they also love the company’s summer barbecue, occasional catered lunches and the generous profit-sharing plan that can equal 25 percent of an annual salary.

“With everything that we offer employees, we know that they know that they are blessed,” Haubenschild said. The company’s board recognizes that the employees “do like giving back. The response we get is definitely always positive.”