Who determines Top Workplaces? Those who know them best: the employees.

The Baltimore Sun partnered with WorkplaceDynamics, a Philadelphia-based employee research and consulting firm, to determine the region's Top Workplaces rankings.

Beginning in June, The Sun ran articles and advertisements encouraging employees in the region to nominate companies as Top Workplaces. WorkplaceDynamics invited those companies, as well as other organizations in the region, to participate in the program.
Anyone could nominate a company. The only requirement was that the organization must employ at least 35 people in the Baltimore metro area. The organization could be public, private, nonprofit or governmental.
WorkplaceDynamics invited 1,314 workplaces to participate and surveyed 171 of them. Only those organizations that agreed to participate were included in the surveys. The surveyed firms employ 32,667 people in the Baltimore area. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 17,945 responded, either on paper or online.
The employee survey sought responses from 24 statements covering seven factors. Key to those are organizational health factors, which 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, their work is meaningful

My Manager – cares about concerns, helps learn and grow

“Time and time again, our research has proven that what's most important to them 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 addition, the survey asked employees about other factors:

Employee Engagement — loyalty, motivation and referral

Leader — confidence in company leadership

The Basics — pay, benefits, flexibility

Statements relating to “Connection” and “Alignment” were among the most important to employees, while statements about pay and benefits rated among the least important.
“While pay and benefits remain important to a point, they do not make a bad workplace better,” Claffey said.
After employees completed the surveys, WorkplaceDynamics ran statistical tests to look for questionable results. (Sometimes a small number of employers will be disqualified based on those tests.)
Employers were categorized into size bands, because “smaller employers tend to score higher than midsize employers, and midsize employers tend to score higher than large employers,” Claffey said.
The employers were ranked within their size band based solely on employee responses to the survey. The top employers in each size band were selected as Top Workplaces in Baltimore for 2016. The list of special awards was determined based on standout scores on specific survey statements.
Why is a particular employer not on the list? Perhaps the company took the survey and scored too low. Or, it might have chosen not to participate.

"We hope more Baltimore-area employers take the time next year to survey their employees and see where they stand," Claffey said.