4. Remedy

Ever bowled over bottles of Irish beer with cabbages?

Ever bowled over bottles of Irish beer with cabbages? It sounds like a St. Patricks Day party — and it was — but its also one of the ways helpdesk and customer relationship management software vendor Remedy does stealth team-building.

In Remedys offices you can find a masseuse, someone to run errands to the dry-cleaner or an employees dog walking the aisles. Employees are regularly recognized with coupons good at local stores and restaurants, and there are rewards for staying with the company — $11,500 at the seven-year mark.

One exemplary employee — soon to be named — will get to drive a PT Cruiser for the next three months.

These might look like the same frivolous perks that swelled egos and sapped cash at many failed dot-coms, but there is something deeper anchoring Remedys benefits and employees.

"Its not a perk, its a cultural element," says Bruce Campbell, senior product manager. "I have total and complete latitude to be myself. The thing that has kept me at this company is that ability to interact, and theres no benefit you can put on a piece of paper to match that."

Remedy does a lot to instill a sense of culture. Fresh hires, who get a box of goodies just for signing on, go through orientation classes in corporate values. These are listed in a set of eight tenets.

"We own the company, we understand the business," reads the first. The idea is to show that the company trusts its employees to do well, so they have the power to get the job done.

"People are willing to take a risk on this company because it trusts them," Campbell says. "The people I know here could work anywhere they want, but they stay because they feel nurtured and supported."

That also means Remedy expects its 1,400 employees to do their best. Its a trade-off that works, says Phyllis Friedman, also known as "Mom" in her role as manager of employee programs.

"Its a very casual environment, a friendly environment, but its also an intense environment," she says. To take the edge off that intensity, and to help employees strike a better balance between work and life, Remedy runs brownbag seminars on subjects like buying a home, child rearing and health.

"We tried to find things that dont necessarily have to be of great cost to the company, but can enhance employees lives," Friedman says.