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A new No. 1 best employer

Data storage company NetApp continues to grow revenues while boosting employee morale -- enough to topple Google (No. 4), which held the crown for the past two years.

By Christopher Tkaczyk
Last Updated: January 22, 2009: 12:36 PM ET

(Fortune) -- How do you keep employees happy, even in troubled times? The companies on this year's list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For showed us that culture continues to be the most important aspect of what makes a company great. Our new No. 1, NetApp (NTAP), the San Francisco-based data storage and management company that has been on the list for the past six years, continues to grow revenues while boosting employee morale -- enough to topple Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) (No. 4), which held the crown for the past two years.

The tough economy took a toll on many corporations and these are no exception. Many told us about layoffs, but we wanted to know how outgoing employees were treated: the size of severance packagess, additional benefits options, and so on. Some companies facing the financial crisis were able to keep employees happy with reduced bonuses, extra vacation days, and discounted gift cards. And for some, just having a job was reason to rejoice. Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) (No. 24) suffered from sagging sales, and announced store closings, ultimately affecting employee morale. Quicken Loans (No. 29) drops from last year's second spot amid a housing crisis in Michigan.

But not all companies are doom and gloom. A lot of the usual suspects remain high in the rankings this year: Edward Jones (No. 2), Boston Consulting Group (No. 3), Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) (No. 9) - a testament to their stellar workplaces. But the biggest surprise is the debut of Vanderbilt University, the first time an institution of higher learning has appeared on the list. Atlantic Health System debuts at No. 75 and joins 12 other health care companies -- 10 of which are hospitals. Other new additions: online shoe retailer Zappos.com (No. 23), the animation division of Hollywood movie studio DreamWorks Animation (DWA) (No. 47), networking and security techie Juniper Networks (No. 84), construction company Gilbane (No. 91), the Build-a-Bear Workshop (No. 94), and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (No. 95) - all offer great pay and a variety of great perks and unique benefits.

Layoffs seemed to be common, but for the time being, it seems they've subsided. A surprising 93 companies on the list are currently hiring for open positions - nearly 75% of them with 50 or more jobs to fill. To top of page

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