A worldwide pandemic put a slew of challenges in the way of Minnesota companies.

From figuring out how to switch professionals to work-from-home setups to putting new safety measures in place on factory floors and rerouting supply chains, the coronavirus dominated business decisions over the past year.

Other businesses had to figure out how to reopen after state-mandated shutdowns or how to erase big deficits caused by the pandemic.

The way companies responded showed what type of values with which the firms operate.

Those values — how companies treat employees and customers, how they interact with their communities — is what the Top Workplaces program is about.

Nominations for the Star Tribune 2021 program are now open at startribune.com/nominate or 612-605-3306. This is the 12th year for the program, and the deadline is Feb. 12. Winners will be publicly announced at a June event and featured in a special section.

Any organization with 50 or more employees in Minnesota can participate, whether they are publicly traded, privately owned, nonprofit or government agencies.

The workplaces must agree to allow their employees to participate in a 24-question survey conducted by the Star Tribune's partner, Pennsylvania-based Energage. The companies will be surveyed from January through April.

Energage partners with media companies in 54 markets across the country to administer the program and in the past year surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 workplaces.

In Minnesota last year, 253 companies employing 148,266 people that participated in the survey met the Top Workplace standards, and 150 of them held ranked positions.

The Energage surveys cover seven areas, including these organizational health factors that measure how well employees are working together toward a common cause:

• Alignment: Where the company is headed, its values, cooperation.

• Effectiveness: Doing things well, sharing different viewpoints, encouraging new ideas.

• Connection: Employees feel appreciated, that their work is meaningful.

• My manager: Cares about concerns, helps me learn and grow. In addition, the survey asks employees about other factors:

• Employee engagement: Loyalty, motivation and referral of the company to others.

• Leader: Confidence in company leadership.

• The basics: Pay, benefits, flexibility.

Catherine Roberts • 612-673-4292