Minnesota again ranks the highest in terms of job satisfaction among regions in Workplace­Dynamics’ Top Workplaces program.

This is the seventh year the Star Tribune has partnered with Pennsylvania-based WorkplaceDynamics to produce our list. And for the second year in a row, Minnesota had the highest overall rankings and the most companies that met the criteria for a Top Workplace.

The accomplishment is not surprising, judging by the number of surveys that name the Twin Cities as a top place to work or live. The latest came earlier this month. Job and recruiting site Glassdoor recently ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul in the top 10 cities for jobs, based on job availability, cost of living and job satisfaction. The metros that ranked higher were mostly larger areas or tech hotbeds such as San Jose, Calif., or Seattle.

This year’s Top Workplaces winners offer tangible benefits and programs. For example, engineering firm WSB & Associates has an “intrapreneurial” program for employees and a “Girls in STEM Day” outreach program. Alarm.com has an “innovation” program and fun events such as “Flannel Friday” and a prom. GoKart Labs, a digital marketing and strategy firm, encourages all employees to contribute “thought leadership” pieces to the company blog. Edward Jones has compressed-workweek and telecommuting options.

Many companies on this year’s list have some sort of profit-sharing program. And while some comments on the surveys pointed to specific benefits, even more pointed toward intangibles such as feeling challenged or valued by their employers.

This year, the Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces program started in January. Readers were asked to nominate employers with at least 50 workers in Minnesota. WorkplaceDynamics also reached out to companies.

In all, 1,556 workplaces were asked to participate, and 385 agreed to be surveyed. The firms employ 119,298 people in Minnesota, and 74,182 of those employees filled out surveys.

Employees were asked about factors such as benefits, pay and work/life balance, as well as the company’s leadership, employee engagement, and the following:

Alignment: where the company is headed, its values and cooperation.

Effectiveness: how the company is getting where it aims to go.

Connection: whether employees feel appreciated and whether the work is meaningful.

“Time and time again, our research has proven that what’s most important to [employees] is a strong belief in where the organization is headed, how it’s going to get there, and the feeling that everyone is in it together,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of WorkplaceDynamics.

In Minnesota, survey respondents said statements relating to connection and alignment were among the most important to them, while pay and benefits were among the least important.

“While pay and benefits remain important to a point, they do not make a bad workplace better,” Claffey said.

After the surveys were tallied, the 150 top scorers were split into large, midsize and small categories and ranked. Another 110 employers met WorkplaceDynamics’ national standards (page 19) but didn’t score high enough for the ranked lists.

Claffey said with a tight job market in Minnesota and elsewhere, benefits — both tangible and intangible — are likely to become more important.

Flexible workplace policies seem to be increasing. Minnesota employers have reported raising pay, adding student loan repayments to benefits, working out transportation issues for workers and making housing and health care options easier.

Still, with the statewide unemployment rate below 4 percent — and closer to zero in some communities — many companies report shortages of qualified applicants.

The problem is not just with Minnesota. When the job market is hot, workers look for other opportunities, which puts pressure on employers.

“Nationwide, our research shows 37 percent of employees — more than one in three — considered pursuing a better job elsewhere in 2015. That figure is an increase over the previous year,” Claffey said.

“And keep in mind, we’re studying organizations that either qualify as Top Workplaces or aspire to get there. These are companies that reap the benefits of employee engagement at levels more than double the norm in the United States,” he said. “What makes employees want to stay? When organizations focus on what really matters — connection, alignment and effectiveness.”

After all, workers spend 40 or more hours a week at work, sometimes more than they spend with their families.

 

CATHERINE ROBERTS, Star Tribune business team leader