Some companies have unusual carrots to dangle for recruitment.

Lately, the consensus in the HR world has been that cash is king — that is, with the recession making it more difficult for employees to make ends meet, they’re less interested in the “alternative compensation” that was all the rage for a while. Some companies have seemed increasingly wary of these same options — for instance, wellness benefits — because they’d begun to suspect they weren’t as effective as they were trumped up to be.

But even in the cold, hard reality of the current economic situation, one thing remains true: perks are cool. A benefit with just the right amount of innovation and flash can still create quite a buzz in the business world.

GOOD Magazine has just released its work-themed issue, including a list of “The Top 20 Perks That Make Jobs Better.” A few of the choices are suspect, or at least run-of-the mill, like Target’s wellness coaches (basically another variation on wellness benefits), or #20—“When you work for Habitat for Humanity, at the end of the day, you’ve built somebody a house”—which is a simple case of confusing job satisfaction with job perks.

But the top 10 are very interesting, and worth thinking about for any HR professional. They are:

10. Patagonia offers an employee internship program, allowing workers to take paid time off to intern at the environmental nonprofit of their choice.

9. Not only will Nike help out its workers with the tuition-related costs of their educations, employees’ kids are also eligible for scholarships.

8. Should an employee at the consulting firm Deloitte decide to adopt a child, he or she could get reimbursed up to $5,000 for associated expenses.

7. Employees at the Quiksilver apparel company are encouraged to make time for surf sessions during their workdays.

6. Forty percent of IBM’s workforce has no official office.

5. It’s only fitting that at the rugged outfitter Timberland, new dads can get paid paternity leave.

4. After every seven years of full-time work at Intel, employees are eligible for eight weeks of fully paid sabbatical.

3. Like profit sharing with clever incentives, Whole Foods’ Gainsharing Program “rewards those factors that team members have most control over, like productivity, scheduling, and customer service.”

2. Washington-area Microsoft employees can take leisurely rides to work on one of dozens of WiFi-equipped buses.

1. At Google, new parents get more than maternity leave: up to $500 of reimbursements for take-out when their newborn’s needs mean no time for home cooking.

There are a couple of other good surveys of top job perks out there; I especially like the one in Woman’s Day, because it doesn’t only go for the usual suspects. For instance, S.C. Johnson got picked for a package that flies under the radar but is really pretty impressive and unusual:

If you work at this cleaning product giant and are short on time, you don’t need to worry: There’s an on-site concierge service that offers discounted services, like mailing your packages, sending flowers, picking up and delivering groceries, researching car insurance deals, changing the oil in your car and even standing in line for concert tickets. And the benefits don’t stop once you retire: Former employees get a lifetime membership at the company fitness center.

Inc. Magazine has a good list too, with companies big and small, and one example I’d never seen before that really knocked me out:

LoadSpring Solutions, an enterprise software company, believes people grow by experiencing other cultures. Employees who travel abroad for vacation receive up to $5,000 and an extra week off to expand their horizons.

I guess it’s refreshing, after all this talk of how employees nowadays are only interested in the money, to see that that’s not entirely true — and that companies are still going out of their way to make the workplace experience not just more profitable, but more interesting and enriching.

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