) -- As some companies have been forced to shrink benefits to save money, the ones that continue to reward employees stand out even more. To attract the best and brightest, they offer not only company-matched retirement plans and flexible work schedules, but a variety of creative perks.
Here are the top five companies, divided by industry.
The Tech Powerhouse: Google
Google's corporate culture is the ultimate laid-back-yet-high-achieving Silicon Valley firm. The casual dress code is a given, and you can even bring your dog to work. Pretty much every personal service is available on site at the "Googleplex" in Mountain Valley, Calif., including a hair salon, dry cleaner, laundry machines, fitness center, and doctors and dentists.
Wi-Fi-enabled buses pick up workers from locations throughout the Bay Area, and if you'd rather drive, Google gives you $5,000 toward the purchase of a hybrid. New parents not only get time off -- they're reimbursed for up to $500 in takeout food. The company likes to boast that there is such a thing as a free lunch: Employees have their pick of 11 on-site cafes, as well as a steady supply of snacks and drinks.
The Consulting Firm: Deloitte
For female employees, this consulting and financial advisory firm has one of the best work-life balance programs around. The company's "corporate lattice" model allows women to downshift or ramp up their duties as family obligations allow, without sacrificing their ultimate career goal. Flextime, telecommuting and other work arrangements are customized to meet individual needs.
New mothers can take advantage of an extensive lactation support program, and Deloitte even pays most of the cost of a breast pump. Adoptive parents receive reimbursement for up to $5,000 of expenses.
The Telecommunications Company: Qualcomm
The company's "Qlife" program offers a variety of support to employees, including referrals to elder and child care, adoption assistance and opportunities for community service during work hours.
Qualcomm's San Diego headquarters has an on-site fitness center, and medical and dental clinic, and also hosts a farmer's market. "Learn to" programs give employees the chance to try scuba diving and surfing, and team-building adventure outings get employees to bond outside the office.
As an added bonus, full-time employees who purchase wireless devices containing a Qualcomm chipset (such as a Kindle or laptop) can get part of the cost covered. Think of it as a high-tech employee discount.
The Retailer: Whole Foods
True to its holistic vision, Whole Foods makes employees a central part of the company's mission and success. That commitment comes from the very top: a salary cap limits the company's top earner to 19 times the salary of an average worker.
Rather than the usual profit sharing, Whole Foods has "Gainsharing," a program that bases rewards on factors that front-line service workers can control, such as improving customer service and productivity. Stock options aren't limited to upper management. The majority are granted to non-executive-level employees. And a 20% merchandise discount keeps employees eating healthy.
The Consumer Products Giant: General Mills
Training is a priority at this food-industry powerhouse. The in-house General Mills Institute tailors programs to employees' needs and experience levels, from an executive-led introduction to the company's values and functional areas, to support for newly appointed managers.
But you're not expected to make work your entire life: New employees get three weeks of vacation to start. Family-friendly policies abound, from the two weeks of paid leave granted to new fathers, to flexible work schedules, to adoption expense reimbursements of up to $10,000.
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Elizabeth Blackwell is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She is the author of Frommer's Chicago guidebook, and writes for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago, and other national magazines.