Companies can't just play to the moment. They also must think ahead, both for what their customers need and what their employees want.

That kind of intuitive business sense seems a lock for many of the Star Tribune Top Workplaces.

This is the 10th year the Star Tribune has partnered with Pennsylvania-based Energage to survey and rank Minnesota companies that meet the standards of an engaged, well-managed, employee-friendly business.

Fifteen companies have made the cut for all 10 years.

Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage, said the companies that make the Top Workplaces list year after year first and foremost concentrate on the fundamentals. However, they also find ways to read trends among the workforce and offer programs or engage with employees in ways that satisfy their needs.

"Challenges of keeping your direction and your values current, keeping up with the way people connect, those are all going to be key in the next 10 years," he said.

Any employer with more than 50 Minnesota workers is eligible for the Star Tribune Top Workplaces. Anyone can nominate a company. To make the list, the companies must let Energage survey their employees. Our rankings are based on how they fare on the survey.

This year, 2,425 companies were contacted to participate. Of those, a record 392 organizations agreed to take the survey, and 293 met the national standards that Energage sets.

That gives Minnesota the top participation rate, in terms of both companies and employees, in the 50 markets in which Energage does Top Workplaces lists.

The employee engagement survey of 24 questions gathers responses on these issues relating to workplace culture:

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

Connection: employees feel appreciated, their work is meaningful.

Effectiveness: doing things efficiently and well, sharing different viewpoints, encouraging new ideas.

My manager: cares about concerns, helps employees develop.

Engagement: motivation, retention and recruiting.

Leadership: confidence in company leaders.

The basics: pay, benefits, flexibility, training, expectations.

The Star Tribune chooses to rank the 150 companies that score the most. They are ranked in three size cohorts in order to accurately compare results.

Not surprisingly considering the tight job market, Minnesota's Top Workplaces scored better than the national average on all survey questions except for retention and benefits.

The pace of several workplace changes — technology being one of the most important — will pick up during the next decade, Claffey said.

"The workplace has been behind our social lives in terms of full integration of technology," he said. And as we've seen in recent months, there are positive aspects such as connectivity but also issues such as privacy concerns and screen addiction.

So in the workplace, "the challenge will be the extent to which [technology] increases productivity and the quality of human interaction," he said.

At the same time, the tight labor market will force companies to more quickly adopt tech such as artificial intelligence and robots. "People's jobs are going to be changing," Claffey said, and he believes more companies will be upscaling employees' positions and doing any needed training, as opposed to the firing and hiring rounds of the past.

Another big factor in the next decade will be the growing gig economy.

As more companies identify tasks that they think are more suited to intermittent workers, they will need to figure out how to communicate their culture with workers "who are going to have more control over how they work, when they work and where they work."

Those workers, in turn, will be the company's representatives to customers, he said.

Adapting to gig workers will happen while the millennial and Generation Z values of work/life flexibility will still be at the forefront, Claffey said.

In addition, the last of the baby boomers will be reaching retirement age. Because more workers either want or need to work beyond age 65, more models of retirement will be needed, such as easing into part-time or contract work.

All of that change could take place as another economic downturn hits. Several economists say there's a likelihood of another economic cycle in the next decade.

A true test of a positive, employee-centered culture will be if the downturn hits, Claffey said.

"Some companies are going to revert to a 'you're lucky to have a job' [mentality] when the pendulum swings back," he said. "Being sure to maintain a great culture is the sign of a great workplace when you get into a time of more adversity."

Catherine Roberts • 612-673-4292