Welcome to The Washington Post’s annual roundup of Top Workplaces, our attempt to identify the best places to work in greater Washington.

The 150 organizations that made the cut this year scored the highest all-around when we surveyed their employees. We asked people to focus on a host of factors, including the quality of leadership, pay and benefit practices, and work-life balance issues.

This is the third year we have undertaken this effort in partnership with the employee survey firm Workplace Dynamics, and we can begin to see patterns emerging on how our region stacks up against others.

Let’s start with what has not changed: Year after year employees have told us that what they care most about is feeling appreciated. They want to know the company is headed in the right direction and that they have confidence in their leader. They want work that allows them to reach their full potential.

All that tends to take precedence over their feelings about pay and benefits. As it happens, the people working for top workplaces in the Washington area in the aggregate feel far better about their total compensation than similar workers elsewhere. Nearly 68 percent consider their pay fair, roughly 5 percentage points more than their peers nationally, and 62 percent think their benefits package is good, a 3 percentage-point difference compared with others in their industry.

We also tend to be more optimistic than others in the country. Nearly 65 percent here would agree with the sentence: “There is not a lot of negativity at my workplace,” compared with about 58 percent nationally.That metric, along with people’s feelings about their pay and their sense that their company was moving in the right direction, improved the most in the past year, perhaps a reflection on the region’s stabilizing economy. It wasn’t that long ago when there was a widespread sense that the Washington area was losing ground to the rest of the nation, as federal spending slowed and lawmakers deadlocked over policy.

Curiously, although people felt better about their paycheck, they expressed less agreement on the state of their benefits, the only area in our survey where sentiment actually soured. And more than 4 in 10 expressed an interest in changing employers, possibly another sign of a stronger job market because people feel more confident to look around.

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