To our readers

The Baltimore Sun

The names this year are familiar: Agora, FutureCare, McDonogh School, Praxis Engineering Technologies, Glass Jacobson, Archbishop Spalding High School.

Those organizations and a handful of others earned a spot on The Baltimore Sun's list of the region's top 100 workplaces for the fourth year running.

As any businessperson or athlete will tell you, it takes a lot of hard work to get to the top, but it takes even more to stay there.

What is it about these businesses and nonprofits that helps them remain consistently among the top workplaces? How do they maintain a culture that makes them places where people like to work?

One consistent thread is meaning. Many of these top workplaces offer employees a place where they can work to help others.

Agora informs people with its publications, FutureCare cares for our sick in its nursing homes, Praxis solves technology problems, Glass Jacobson advises folks on taxes and money, and McDonogh and Archbishop Spalding teach our young.

Clearly, helping people and solving problems for them engenders a workplace with meaning.

But it's more than that. There are surely plenty of publishers, nursing homes, schools, and accounting and IT firms that wouldn't merit being named a top workplace.

The difference often is leadership. Quality leaders nurture top workplaces, creating environments where employees and employers work toward a common goal. When workers are committed to the mission, work becomes rewarding and even fun.

Top employers reward employees with regular feedback, good benefits and sometimes eye-popping perks. Pay is important, too, but not as important as one might think.

To identify Baltimore's top workplaces, The Sun worked with WorkplaceDynamics, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm, to conduct employee surveys and crunch the data. WorkplaceDynamics, whose mission is to help employers create places where people want to work, has conducted similar surveys for more than three dozen U.S. newspapers and has helped The Sun produce Baltimore's Top Workplaces for the past four years.

WorkplaceDynamics scored the results and divided the employers into three categories: large, medium and small. Doug Claffey, the firm's CEO, explains the process on page 20.

The list of the top companies across those categories starts on page 18. There are profiles of the No. 1 workplaces and others in the top 10 of each category. WorkplaceDynamics also awarded special honors, found on page 17, recognizing top managers and standout companies that scored high in particular categories.

We hope you enjoy this magazine and that you'll nominate your company next year. Those organizations at the top deserve some competition.

Christopher Dinsmore is The Baltimore Sun's senior editor for business and health

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