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Google (GOOG), Costco (COST) and Facebook (FB) top a new Glassdoor survey of companies with great salaries and benefits. What can we learn from them and the rest of the top 25 about attracting and retaining talent? Why is now the time to study their examples?

Pay is a hot topic, cropping up in all sorts of discussions -- from the fast-food industry to state minimum wage laws and speculation about the why The New York Timesrecently fired its first woman executive editor.

It's not surprising, then, that 39% of American workers in a recent Glassdoor surveysay they believe they don't get paid fairly for their efforts. When that much of the workforce -- 42% of women surveyed and 34% of men -- feel they're under-compensated for their work, employee motivation and performance suffer.

Despite talk at the city and state level about living-wage standards and President Obama's recent executive order on equal pay and a higher minimum wage for federal contract employees, 57% of the workers surveyed said it's up to employers, rather than the government, to take care of the issue. The top items on their wish list are better pay policies, clearer top-down communication, and greater transparency about pay.

But there are companies that earn raves from employees for pay, benefits, and working conditions. On Friday, Glassdoor released its first report on the top 25 companies for compensation and benefits. The results are based on a year's worth of verified feedback from U.S. employees who use the career community website.

Naturally, the list features companies that pay well, but what stands out are the responsive and often creative benefits -- everything from flex-time and work-from-home options to more esoteric perks like pet insurance and onsite hair salons.

Top industries in the top 25

The tech sector makes up almost half of the list, with 12 companies earning top marks for pay and benefits, including Google, Microsoft (MSFT) and Adobe (ADBE).

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology make up the second-largest group with three representatives: Genentech, Amgen and Pfizer.

Costco, at No. 2 on the list, is the only retailer to make the chart, along with one company each from the insurance, transportation, energy and travel industries. Not surprisingly, no fast-food companies made the list.

1. Google
2. Costco
3. Facebook
4. Adobe
5. Epic
6. Intuit
7. USAA
8. Chevron
9. Salesforce.com
10. Monsanto
11. Genentech
12. Kaiser Permanente
13. Qualcomm
14. Riverbed
15. Verizon
16. Vmware
17. T-Mobile
18. Microsoft
19. Amgen
20. Pfizer
21. Southern California Edison
22. Orbitz
23. Procter & Gamble
24. Union Pacific
25. eBay

More than money

It's no secret that the tech sector pays well, and companies like USAA and Costco are legendary within their industries for employee satisfaction. But employees also cited interesting perks, beyond health insurance and 401K plans, as part of their satisfaction at work.

More control over their time, in one form or another, topped the wish list of employees in Glassdoor's fair-pay survey. More women than men want flex time and work from home options (men tend to prefer company stock), but the most-coveted perk was more vacation time. More than 60% of survey respondents would claim that benefit if they could.

Among the top 25, 10 companies -- including Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, and Orbitz -- were cited by workers for their vacation and personal day policies, flex-time options, and telecommuting arrangements.

Travel and an awesome home base

Google and salesforce.com in particular were mentioned by employees for fun business-travel destinations and for a home office worth coming back to. Hawaii is a recurring theme.

"I've been on off-sites to Tahoe, Vegas, and Hawaii in the last year," said a Google senior software engineer. And yet "the company creates an environment where you don't really want to leave campus." A Salesforce account executive was similarly enthusiastic about the office and company off-sites, describing a "very upbeat atmosphere" along with trips to Hawaii.

Working hard may be its own reward sometimes, but extra cash is even more rewarding. Bonuses were a repeated theme among Costco and USAA employees in the top 25 survey. The fair-pay survey didn't break out bonuses specifically as a desired perk, but it's hard to imagine anyone turning them down.

Onsite services for employees

Google and other companies know that employees who aren't leaving frequently for errands and appointments across town are less stressed and distracted. This has given rise to some perks that seem more suited to a resort than an office park, such as the onsite chiropractor and acupuncturist mentioned by a Facebook program manager based in Menlo Park, Calif. Gyms, day care centers, health and dental clinics, fine dining and hair salons helped push other companies onto the list.

Adobe stood out among the top 25 for offering pet health insurance to its employees along with a long list of pluses, such as a top-notch employee stock purchase plan, onsite gyms and spaces to relax during the work day.

Lessons for companies who want top talent

What can companies who want to attract and keep the best employees take away from these results? Scott Dobroski, Glassdoor community expert, said good salaries are just part of the total package.

"There are other pieces all employers can evaluate for their own company and do their best to offer employees. This can include offering bonuses, flexible schedules, more paid time off, the option to work remotely, health benefits beyond general health and dental, stock options and more."

He noted that what works for one company may not be the best fit for another. "What's key is determining what works best for your workforce and gauging employee feedback to determine what they want and what will make them more satisfied in and out of work."

Creating a straightforward compensation structure is a big potential benefit too, according to Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor career and workplace expert. "When employees have a clearer understanding of how they're being compensated without secrecy around salaries, not only can they feel empowered in their current jobs, they're also often motivated to work toward the next level, which can improve productivity."

The payoff for employers

So how do companies justify paying above-average salaries and serving up lavish perks? It's all about getting the best from employees over the long haul, according to Dobrowski.

"Employees value a total compensation and benefits package when it comes to their overall job satisfaction, which can certainly impact how productive they are, how committed they are and how long they potentially stay with a company," he said. And it's not just about salary. "Glassdoor surveys show that employees value career opportunities and interesting work as some of the top considerations when determining where to work."

And if that interesting work happens to reward employees with great pay, flexible scheduling and trips to Hawaii, so much the better.

The Motley Foolis aUSA TODAYcontent partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently ofUSA TODAY.

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