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At Mabel’s Labels, it’s results that matter

hen it comes to recruiting and retaining talented employees, fostering their productivity and promoting balance, Mabel’s Labels puts the “progress” in progressive. The Hamilton-based e-commerce company has adopted a unique philosophy and culture of life balance called ROWE, which stands for Results Only Work Environment. “ROWE enables employees to accomplish their performance goals in the way that works best for them,” says Mabel’s Labels human resources leader Sarah Barclay, who joined the organization in 2012. “ROWE is one of the most significant cultural change initiatives I have ever participated in, and it has reshaped how we view the concept of work. We don’t use the term ‘work-life balance.’ We aim to enable employees to achieve simply ‘life balance,’ where work is one of many priorities.”

“We believe that work is what you do, not where you go.” – Sarah Barclay, Human Resources Leader

Mabel’s Labels is a 13-year-old growing business that designs, manufactures, markets and sells stylish waterproof labels to identify personal belongings. The company, which is owned by four women, sells directly to consumers worldwide through its website and across North America through fundraisers at schools, daycares, camps and other organizations. Its retail division was launched in 2012, with its WriteAway! line sold at Walmart stores

in Canada, HEB stores in Texas and on Walmart’s and Amazon’s websites. Previously, Barclay had worked for larger companies, including General Electric and Campbell Canada. She wanted to have more of an impact at a smaller company, somewhere she could drive and develop the strategic direction of the HR vision.

“At Mabel’s Labels, our unique culture and high level of employee engagement are central to our overall organizational success. We believe that work is what you do, not where you go,” says Barclay. “That means you could theoretically work at the cottage and sit in on a Skype meeting and still successfully meet your objectives.” When determining their weekly locale, employees are asked to consider these questions: Would working off-site today meet the business’s needs? Would it meet my team’s needs? Can I meet my goals and deliverables? Longtime employee Kim Burke appreciates the ROWE philosophy. “I do my best focused work alone and I don’t need supervision, so I spend part of each week working at home,” she says. “But I also enjoy my time at the office collaborating in person. ROWE is a great way to manage people and shows that the company’s leaders trust and value their employees.” Burke also values the opportunities she has been given for internal growth. She joined the company as a customer service representative when it launched, then became programs manager before being appointed project planner in 2013. “Mabel’s has changed a lot since the beginning,” she says. “I thrive in positive change, so I’ve been kept captivated and interested.” Burke’s position as a project planner has her working with teams supervising



full-time staff in Canada

unlimited vacation days

day-to-day project operations. One recent creative, newsworthy project involved sending Mabel’s hockey-label packs to NHL teams when several of the players had the mumps. “One of our fans snapped a great photo of a labeled water bottle right behind the New York Rangers bench,” she says. Bonding with colleagues is also important. “My coworkers are smart, funny and friendly, and we have a great camaraderie,” says Burke. Employees unite to volunteer for


job applications last year


charities helped last year

local charities, such as organizing food drives and lending a hand at the Good Shepherd mission. Doing so fosters relationship building and speaks to Mabel’s mandate to be part of something bigger than itself. “The fact that we like to be together both at and outside of work really informs our performance and motivates us to work well, knowing you’ll get the best out of each other,” says Burke.

Proud to be one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers!

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Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2015)  

The official magazine announcing the winners of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers for 2015. Published in The Globe and Mail on March 10...

Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2015)  

The official magazine announcing the winners of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers for 2015. Published in The Globe and Mail on March 10...

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