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Google is the coolest workplace in the U.S.--again

The Web giant is among several tech firms that won kudos from Fortune for perks ranging from free food to big bonuses.

One of the cafes at the Googleplex, where employees can get free meals.
James Martin/CNET

Google topped Fortune magazine's list of Best Companies to Work For 2012, knocking the nearly paternalist SAS Institute from the top perch.

The Web giant claimed the top spot on the strength of both its financial performance-- revenue, profits and share price all climbed--and employee gratitude for its corporate culture. Fortune noted that Google employees have access to bocce courts, bowling alleys, and, of course, free food.

Each year, Fortune compiles the list of large companies that treat their employees well, generally by granting perks that the rest of us wish we had. SAS, which came in third this year, offers employees subsidized Montessori child care, unlimited sick time, and a free health care center at its lush Cary, N.C., campus. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp grabbed the sixth spot on the list, in large part for the huge bonuses its pay-for-performance program offered last year, handing employees payouts of up to 31% of their salary.

But the 100 companies on the list all have more than 1,000 employees in the United States. Almost by definition, that means they are mature businesses. There are plenty of workers who have left Google and the other giants on Fortune's list for younger, more nimble companies that never show up among the chosen companies. And a few of the companies on the list, such as No. 41 Adobe and No. 90 Cisco, have laid off thousands of workers this year, making them not particularly ideal spots for the folks who were shown the door.

Still, Google chief executive Larry Page trumpeted his company's ranking in a Google+ post:

I want Google to be an amazing place to work, so really excited to see us ranked as the best place to work by Fortune for the third time (more than any company). Google is the sum of our people and their hard work and dedication.
The Fortune list is full of tech companies. Online retailer Zappos, owned by Amazon, slipped from the sixth spot last year to No. 11 on the 2012 list. TurboTax maker Intuit jumped from the 44th spot to No. 19. Telecom giant Qualcomm climbed from 33rd to 23rd in the rankings. And Web-based business service pioneer moved from 52nd on the 2011 list to 27th this year.

Farther down the list are some of the stalwarts of techdom. Intel ranked 46th, moving up a few spots from its No. 51 slot last year. And Microsoft came in 76th, dropping a few ranks from No. 72 on the 2011 list.