Strong senior leaders set the tone for high-performing companies. But when it comes to judging whether an organization is a terrific place to work, there’s only one audience that matters: the employees.

For a fourth straight year, The Salt Lake Tribune partnered with Pennsylvania-based Energage, formerly WorkplaceDynamics, an employee research and consulting firm, to determine Utah’s Top Workplaces through worker surveys.

In March, The Tribune started running articles and ads encouraging people to nominate companies as Top Workplaces. Energage invited those companies and other organizations in the state — 781 companies in all — to take the employee survey. Any organization was welcome, as long as it had at least 35 employees in the state. Organizations could be public, private, nonprofit or governmental.

Energage surveyed a record 102 organizations that agreed to participate in the survey. Those firms employ 34,505 people in Utah. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 20,177 responded, either on paper or online.

This year, 70 Utah employers scored high enough to earn Top Workplaces honors.

The employee survey seeks responses from 24 statements covering seven areas, including 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 various viewpoints, encouraging new ideas.

• Connection — Employees feel appreciated, their work is meaningful.

• My manager — Cares about concerns, helps learn and grow.

• 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 workers, while those about pay and benefits rated among the least important.

“Obviously, you have to treat people fairly and pay people well,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage, “but we find pay and benefits correlate least with employee engagement.”

To ensure organizations are playing fair, Energage runs statistical tests to look for questionable results. It sometimes disqualifies employers based on those tests.

For the rankings, employers are placed into groups of similar size, because smaller employers tend to score higher than midsize employers, and midsize employers tend to score higher than large employers.

Based on scores determined from the worker survey feedback, employers within those size bands that score high enough are recognized as Top Workplaces.

Energage also determined a list of special awards based on standout scores on specific survey topics.

If you’re wondering why a particular employer isn’t on this year’s list, it could be because the company either chose not to participate in the program or did not score high enough based on the survey results.

“Fundamentally, we believe engaged employees drive productivity and results,” Claffey said. “We urge more Utah employers to measure what’s really happening within their organizations.”