At the Santa Monica offices of Red Bull, Director of Human Resources Dan Curtin said his privately held company can't offer stock options so the benefits package has to compensate. In addition to paying 100 percent of the cost of medical insurance for employees and their families, three months ago Curtin (who was hired specifically to improve the company's package) added an employee assistance program offering counseling in legal, financial and psychological matters.

Red Bull also provides company credit cards, so workers can conveniently pay for work-related expenses without having to dip into their own pockets, and laptop computers to help ease the time strains placed on employees who spend a lot of time on the road. Now, Curtin is looking at the possibility of adding a concierge who would be available to run errands that employees don't have time for.

New-job daydreams

Employers say the benefits are not just important to attract employees, they help to keep them as well. A recently released study indicates that employees think about leaving their jobs once a week, said Alysia Vanitzian, vice president and chief learning officer at Employers Group, an L.A. association that specializes in human resource services and products.

"So if you're the typical employer out there fighting for talent and fighting that fact that you've got people thinking how they can improve their circumstance every week, it behooves you to start thinking about ways to ease their quality of life," Vanitzian said.

Back at Amgen, the new day care center was designed with just such a focus. Developed with the help of the International Child Resource Institute in Berkeley and managed by child care specialists at Bright Horizons, the center offers such services as hard-to-find infant care, nursing rooms for new mothers and special toilets for potty training. Although it's not a free benefit employees have to pay tuition for their children the rates are 10 percent to 15 percent below market rate, according to company officials.

"It's our staff's children, and the ability to enhance the productivity of our staff by enabling them to not worry about their kids because the kids are right here in a high-quality facility is worth a lot," Garnett said.

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