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

The Salt Lake Tribune partnered with Pennsylvania-based WorkplaceDynamics, an employee-research and consulting firm, to determine the region's Top Workplaces rankings.

Beginning in March, The Tribune 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 Utah. The organization could be public, private, nonprofit or governmental.

WorkplaceDynamics invited 899 workplaces to participate and surveyed 97 of them. Only those organizations that agreed to participate were included in the surveys. The surveyed firms employ 29,546 people in Utah. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 20,624 responded, either on paper or online.

The employee survey seeks 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 asks employees about other factors:

Employee engagement • Loyalty, motivation and referral.

Leader • Confidence in company leadership.

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," Claffey said, "they do not make a bad workplace better."

After employees completed the surveys, WorkplaceDynamics ran statistical tests to look for any questionable results. (It sometimes will disqualify a small number of employers based on those tests.)

Employers were categorized by size, because "smaller employers tend to score higher than midsize employers, and midsize employers tend to score higher than large employers," Claffey explained.

The employers were ranked within their size band based solely on employee responses to the survey statements. The top employers in each group were selected as Top Workplaces in Utah for 2016. WorkplaceDynamics also determined special awards 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.