In this May 2011 file photo, Jonathan Hooper and Cheryl Rosati from the Nerdery plan a trip to New York during a "Bottle Cap" keg event for employees at the Nerdery, an interactive web development company. The Nerdery won a Top Workplaces award last year for creating opportunities for employees.

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

The joy of discovery in 'Top Workplaces'

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES
  • Star Tribune
  • February 11, 2012 - 5:53 PM

Two years ago, the Star Tribune launched a new publication recognizing the Top Workplaces in Minnesota, and hosted an inaugural luncheon to honor the winners.

It has quickly become one of my favorite events, for many reasons.

Here's one: A little company called The Nerdery, which took home an award last year for empowering everyone in the organization to take charge as if they were all copresidents. They came to lunch dressed exactly as one might think a group of nerds might dress. Their employees joined representatives of other top workplaces, like Cargill and U.S. Bank, who came looking, well, like one would expect proud, top executives of Fortune 500 companies to look.

The diversity of the companies and employees and workplaces in Minnesota -- from small boutique firms to large banks and manufacturers -- is one of this state's greatest strengths, and has been for more than 100 years. But even those on our staff, who have spent decades covering business and businesses, discovered companies they had never heard about or found out something new about a company they had covered for a long time.

Some of the winning companies arrived with their top employees in limousines. They posed for pictures, and afterward hung signs, placards and rugs around their businesses proudly declaring themselves to be a top workplace. That's another reason why I like this event. Our staff covers the broad spectrum of business in Minnesota, from small to large, from big successes to whopping failures like Tom Petters.

Launched in the midst of the worst recession in decades, this publication gives us an opportunity to celebrate success in the workplace, which occurs regardless of whether we are in the midst of good economic times or hard economic times.

Finally, it gives us all an opportunity to learn from the best practices of others, a core tenet of successful business. We learned how a real-estate company kept employees motivated during the absolute worst of times for that industry. We learned how retailers who couldn't pay much in hourly wages kept employees motivated. And we discovered how even large workplaces learned how to make work feel personal.

We are now beginning work on our 2012 Top Workplaces publication, and we are soliciting individual employees or employers to nominate their company and tell us what makes it special. You can do so by visiting us at or calling 612-605-3306. Nominations must be submitted by Feb. 24.

As we have in the past, we are working with a professional survey company, Workplace Dynamics, to collect, analyze and report the results. Once we have those, Star Tribune reporters will be assigned to report on what makes the best workplaces in Minnesota, in advance of our June publication and luncheon.

We look forward to telling your stories.


Nancy Barnes is the Star Tribune's editor.

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