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Call them the job creators. The winners of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers competition not only have outstanding workplaces with enlightened human resources policies, but also nearly all show positive employment growth. With small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) employing almost two-thirds of private-sector employees in Canada, and accounting for more than half of Canada's gross domestic product, that's key to the success of Canada's economy.

Moreover, the winning SMEs in this second-annual competition feature many of the same valuable workplace perks you'd expect from bigger organizations, such as generous top-up payments for maternity and parental leave, flexible work options, matching RRSP contribution programs and training support. Also notable is the number of SMEs offering profit-sharing and share purchase programs. As well, their nimble size – the competition is limited to private-sector commercial organizations with less than 500 employees – works to their advantage when it comes to innovating and adapting the latest new initiatives to benefit their employees.

"The competition highlights the dynamism of a smaller work environment with the types of benefits traditionally associated with larger employers," says Richard Yerema, managing editor of the Canada's Top 100 Employers project at Mediacorp Canada Inc. "It truly is an unbeatable combination for many job-seekers who want a slightly less formal structure but also value those practical perks and benefits for the longer term."

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The list:

/N Spro Inc., Montreal. Computer consulting; 58 employees. Offers alternative work arrangements, including flexible hours, a telecommuting option, and shortened and compressed work weeks.

1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Vancouver. Waste removal; 176 employees. New employees receive between two to four weeks of paid vacation allowance to start.

360incentives.com Canada ULC, Whitby, Ont. Computer software development; 94 employees. Added 33 full-time positions in the past year, increasing its overall work force by 54 per cent.

Absolute Software Corp., Vancouver. Computer software development; 246 employees. Offers referral bonuses as an incentive for employees who help recruit friends, to $3,000 for successful hires.

ACL Services Ltd., Vancouver. Computer software development; 169 employees. Provides an on-site lounge, with television, pool table, table tennis and board games, plus fresh fruit and employee-baked goods.

Adlib Software Inc., Burlington, Ont. Computer software development; 99 employees. Provides head office employees with monthly visits from an in-house massage therapist.

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Air Georgian Ltd., Mississauga. Airline; 250 employees. Offers employees discounted and reduced airfare rates.

Albi Homes Ltd., Calgary. Home building; 92 employees. Encourages employees to save for the future with contributions to a matching retirement savings plan.

Aquatic Informatics Inc., Vancouver. Computer software development; 59 employees. Added 22 new positions in the past year, a 59-per-cent jump.

Arcurve Inc., Calgary. Computer software development; 65 employees. Rewards exceptional performance with tailored bonuses, including theatre and hockey tickets as well as evening and weekend getaways.

Artis Real Estate Investment Trust, Winnipeg. Real estate; 155 employees. Offers subsidies for professional accreditation, and in-house and online training programs.

Big Rock Brewery LP, Calgary. Breweries; 115 employees. Maintains a flexible health benefits plan that allows employees to customize levels of coverage according to personal needs.

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Big Viking Games Inc., London, Ont. Software publisher; 49 employees. Provides an on-site full-service kitchen and cafeteria featuring daily breakfasts and lunches, plus free snacks.

Birchcliff Energy Ltd., Calgary. Natural gas liquid extraction; 142 employees. Provides a free on-site fitness facility featuring boot camp classes, exercise equipment, sauna and shower facilities.

Canadian Discovery Ltd., Calgary. Support for oil and gas industry; 60 employees. Supports a variety of local, national and international charitable organizations each year.

Clearpath Robotics Inc., Kitchener, Ont. Robotics manufacturing, 36 employees. Supports employee development with in-house training options, subsidies for professional accreditation and opportunities for mentoring.

Contax Inc., Toronto. Information technology consulting; 58 employees. The company-subsidized social committee organizes events throughout the year, including baseball games and a summer boat cruise.

Cowell Auto Group, Richmond, B.C. Auto dealers; 174 employees. Helps the next generation gain on-the-job experience through paid internships and co-op opportunities.

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Crelogix Acceptance Corp., Burnaby, B.C. Financial services; 32 employees. Offers subsidies for tuition and professional accreditation, in-house training and opportunities for mentoring.

Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust, Stellarton, N.S. Property development and management; 282 employees. Helps employees save for retirement with contributions to a defined contribution pension plan.

D&D Automation Inc., Stratford, Ont. Industrial controls and automation manufacturing; 67 employees. Lets everyone share in the company's success through a profit-sharing plan.

DAC Group Inc., Toronto. Advertising; 184 employees. New employees receive three weeks of starting vacation allowance plus paid time off during the winter holidays and up to six personal paid days off each year.

Diabsolut Inc., Pointe-Claire, Que. Business and information technology consulting; 83 employees. Offers referral bonuses for employees who help recruit friends, up to $1,000.

Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc., Toronto. Architectural services; 145 employees. Offers in-house apprenticeship programs, subsidies for professional accreditation and a variety of in-house and online training programs.

Digital Extremes Ltd., London, Ont. Software publishers; 178 employees. Head office features a full-sized commercial kitchen and dining room, with two full-time chefs who prepare healthy and free meals daily for employees.

Driving Force Inc., Edmonton. Auto dealers, 360 employees. Offers subsidies for tuition and professional accreditation, mentoring opportunities and career planning services.

Duncan Craig LLP, Edmonton. Law firms; 127 employees. Offers alternative work arrangements including flexible hours, shortened work weeks, a telecommuting option and a 35-hour work week with full pay.

Emkay Inc., Toronto. Fleet management services; 27 employees. Acknowledges exceptional performance through peer-to-peer recognition, quarterly and annual awards for individual performance and long-service awards.

Equitable Bank, Toronto. Financial services; 342 employees. Ensures employees stay up-to-date on company developments through Banknotes, an in-house newsletter.

eSentire Inc., Cambridge, Ont. Computer security services; 106 employees. Added 74 new full-time jobs in the past year and increasing its work force by 40 per cent.

Etratech Inc., Burlington, Ont. Electronic controls and device manufacturing; 126 employees. Manages an academic scholarship program for children of employees interested in pursuing postsecondary education, to $1,500 a child.

Excel Funds Management Inc., Mississauga. Financial services; 29 employees. Offers employees up to eight personal paid days off a year.

Fidus Systems Inc., Ottawa. Computer systems design services; 60 employees. Head office features a free on-site fitness facility with exercise equipment, yoga classes, personal training sessions and shower facilities.

FinancialCAD Corp., Surrey, B.C. Software publishers; 88 employees. Manages a year-end bonus program open to all employees.

First Access Funding Corp., Edmonton. Automotive sales financing; 19 employees. Added 10 new full-time positions in the past year, doubling its work force.

Flaman Sales Ltd., Saskatoon. Farm and home equipment dealers; 335 employees. Social events include company barbecues, a Christmas party, tickets to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Saskatoon Blades games, and employee sports teams.

Fresche Solutions Inc., Montreal. Computer systems design and consulting; 67 employees. Employees enjoy an outdoor eating area with barbecue, plus a rooftop vegetable garden in the growing season.

FreshBooks, Toronto. Software publishers: 148 employees. Company-subsidized social committee events include Porchfest, an annual cottage weekend getaway, and Festivus, an annual holiday party.

Fully Managed Technology Inc., Vancouver. Computer systems design and consulting; 39 employees. Offers generous referral bonuses for employees who help recruit friends, up to $10,000 for successful hires.

Fusion Learning Inc., Toronto. Management consulting; 25 employees. Provides on-site showers for employees who cycle or run to work.

Fusion Project Management Ltd., Vancouver. Interior design; 23 employees. Offers employees paid time off to volunteer with their favourite charitable organization.

Gevity Consulting Inc., Vancouver. Computer software development; 79 employees. Supports new mothers with generous maternity and parental leave top-up payments, to 100 per cent of salary for 52 weeks.

Great Little Box Co. Ltd. Richmond, B.C. Box manufacturing; 199 employees. Opens its books to employees each month and offers a profit-sharing option.

Group Medical Services, Regina. Medical insurance; 109 employees. Helps employees save for the future with contributions to a defined pension plan.

Halogen Software Inc., Ottawa. Software publishers; 359 employees. Offers an annual health club subsidy to employees, which can be used to cover the costs of gym membership, to $400 a year.

Integra Engineering Ltd., Lloydminster, Alta. Engineering; 36 employees. Maintains a flexible health benefits plan that allows employees to customize levels of coverage to suit their personal needs.

Intelex Technologies Inc., Toronto. Software publishers; 212 employees. Offers flexible hours to employees who are new mothers when they are ready to return to work.

Jayman Built Group of Cos., Calgary. Home building; 332 employees. Offers profit-sharing and year-end bonuses available to all employees.

Jones DesLauriers Insurance Management Inc., Toronto. Insurance; 188 employees. Created 43 new full-time jobs in the past year, a 30-per-cent increase in its work force

Keilhauer Industries Ltd., Toronto. Furniture manufacturing; 209 employees. Reaches out to the next generation of employees with summer jobs, paid internships and co-op work experience.

Killam Properties Inc., Halifax. Property ownership and management; 375 employees. Encourages employees to become owners through a share purchase plan.

Kinaxis Inc., Ottawa. Software publishers; 181 employees. Head office features include a quiet room, employee lounge and free access to an on-site fitness facility.

Longbow Advantage Inc., Montreal. Computer consulting; 36 employees. Offers a flat vacation policy where all employees, including new employees, receive four weeks of paid vacation allowance.

Lug Canada Inc., Markham, Ont. Luggage manufacturing; 38 employees. Offers tuition subsidies to employees for courses directly related to their position as well as courses not related to their current position.

Mabel's Labels Inc., Hamilton. Label manufacturing; 36 employees. Offers temporary workstations for its telecommuting employees.

Mannarino Systems and Software Inc., Saint-Laurent, Que. Computer systems design services; 51 employees. Offers a generous in-vitro fertilization subsidy if required, to $15,000.

Manning Elliott LLP, Vancouver. Accounting; 155 employees. Social events include the annual end-of-tax-season party, Christmas holiday party, summer barbecue and baseball game, as well as a retreat to Whistler, B.C.

Nature's Path Foods Inc., Richmond, B.C. Breakfast cereal manufacturing; 163 employees. Offers a unique green lifestyle perk by contributing $1,000 toward the purchase of an eco-friendly vehicle.

Netmail Inc., Montreal. Custom computer programming; 61 employees. Head office features an employee lounge equipped with music, video games, pool and foosball tables.

North Cariboo Flying Service Ltd., Calgary. Airline; 335 employees. Offers tuition subsidies for career related courses, to $3,000 annually.

North Strategic Inc., Toronto. Marketing consulting; 33 employees. Involves employees in selecting the charities that receive company support as well as providing employees with paid volunteer time.

Northforge Innovations Inc., Gatineau, Que. Computer software development; 71 employees. Provides an innovation room with whiteboards for brainstorming sessions.

Nutrabolics Inc., Vancouver. Pharmaceutical products; 12 employees. Encourages employees to save for the longer term with matching retirement savings plan contributions.

People Store Staffing Solutions Inc., Mississauga. Human resources consulting; 35 employees. Added seven new positions last year, a 25-per-cent increase.

Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP, Ottawa. Law firms; 120 employees. Offers employees who are new parents or adoptive parents the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence.

Peto MacCallum Ltd., Toronto. Engineering; 161 employees. Offers phased-in work options for employees nearing retirement.

PNI Digital Media Inc., Vancouver. Digital printing; 135 employees. Reaches out to the next generation through summer job and co-op work experience opportunities.

PolyCello, Amherst, N.S. Commercial printing and packaging; 394 employees. Manages an academic scholarship program for children of employees who are pursuing postsecondary studies, up to $2,500 a child.

Progressive Home Warranty Solutions Inc., Surrey, B.C. Insurance; 27 employees. Encourages employees to volunteer in the community with up to five paid volunteer days off each year.

Pythian Group, Ottawa. Computer systems design services; 145 employees. Helps employees balance their work and personal lives with flexible and telecommuting work options.

R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd., Burnaby, B.C. Engineering; 106 employees. Provides dedicated workstations for off-site employees.

Reid's Heritage Group of Cos., Cambridge, Ont. Home building; 233 employees. Supports employees who volunteer in the community with one paid day off every year.

Replicon Inc., Calgary. Computer software development; 95 employees. Encourages employees to keep their skills up-to-date with in-house and online training programs.

ResponseTek Networks Corp., Vancouver. Computer software development; 74 employees. Starts new employees at three weeks of paid vacation allowance, moving to six weeks for long-standing employees.

Richter LLP, Montreal. Accounting; 423 employees. Offers referral bonuses for employees when they successfully recruit a new candidate, to $4,000.

Rocky Mountaineer, Vancouver. Tour operators; 175 employees. Offers a variety of helpful financial benefits including a discounted rail pass program.

Rodan Energy Solutions Inc., Mississauga. Energy metering services; 30 employees. Considers previous work experience when setting vacation entitlements for new employees.

Rogers Insurance Ltd., Calgary. Insurance; 200 employees. Offers alternative work options including flexible hours, shortened work weeks, a 35-hour work week with full pay, and a formal earned days off program.

Rohit Group of Cos., Edmonton. Home and commercial building; 133 employees. Provides employees with paid time off to volunteer with local charitable organizations, as well as matching charitable donations.

Scalar Decisions Inc., Toronto. Computer Consulting; 124 employees. Offers tuition subsidies for courses at outside institutions, as well as subsidies for professional accreditation.

Scamp Transport Ltd., Langley, B.C. Freight transport; 225 employees. Added 26 new positions, a 13-per-cent increase year over year.

Sealweld Corp., Calgary. Support for the oil and gas industry; 43 employees. Provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments to employees who are new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents, to 95 per cent of salary for 17 weeks.

SherWeb Inc., Sherbrooke. Computer systems design services; 169 employees. Reaches out to the next generation of employees with paid internships and summer employment opportunities.

Sigma Systems Canada Inc., Toronto. Computer systems design services; 100 employees. Lets everyone share in the company's success with profit-sharing and a share purchase plan.

Solvera Solutions, Regina. Computer consulting; 179 employees. Encourages employees to stay healthy with an annual wellness subsidy, to $500.

SportsDirect Inc., Halifax. Internet publishing and broadcasting; 59 employees. Provides compassionate leave top-up payments for employees to care for a loved one, to 75 per cent of salary for 17 weeks.

Swish Maintenance Ltd., Peterborough, Ont. Manufacturing and distribution of janitorial supplies and equipment; 236 employees. Added 11 new positions last year.

Talon Energy Services Inc., St. John's. Support for oil and gas operations; 85 employees. Encourages employees to save for life after work with matching retirement savings plan contributions.

TeraGo Networks Inc., Thornhill, Ont. Internet service providers; 194 employees. Considers previous work experience when setting vacation entitlements for new employees.

Terracon Geotechnique Ltd., Calgary. Engineering; 243 employees. Regularly captures employee feedback through annual in-house and consultant surveys.

theScore Inc., Toronto. Internet publishing and broadcasting; 98 employees. Employees can enjoy an outdoor terrace or lounge, complete with comfortable seating, television, video games, foosball and table tennis.

Think Shift Advertising Inc., Winnipeg. Advertising; 53 employees. The company's Party People social committee organizes numerous annual events, from pub nights to family skating excursions.

True North Automation Inc., Calgary. Engineering; 90 employees. Helps employees earn a little extra time off through a formal earned days off program.

Ventana Construction Corp., Burnaby, B.C. Commercial building construction; 129 employees. Offers referral bonuses when employees successfully help to recruit a new candidate, up to $2,500.

Verafin Inc., St. John's. Custom computer programming; 176 employees. Offers a flexible "no limit" vacation policy, letting employees balance their work responsibilities and decide how much time they need in any given year.

Vigilant Global, Montreal. Custom computer programming; 106 employees. Encourages employees to keep fit with a generous health club subsidy, to $1,200 a year.

Walter Surface Technologies, Pointe-Claire, Que. Industrial supplies; 155 employees. Offers great career opportunities with locations in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Germany.

West Wind Aviation LP, Saskatoon. Airline; 250 employees. Offers phased-in work options to help retiring employees transition to life after work.

Wynward Insurance Group, Winnipeg. Insurance; 67 employees. Offers a health benefits plan that extends into retirement

XE.com Inc., Newmarket, Ont. Computer software development; 35 employees. Provides a quiet room for meditation and reflection.

Methodology

The Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers competition recognizes small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Canada that lead the nation in creating exceptional workplaces with forward-thinking human resources policies. To determine eligibility, the Top 100 editors at Toronto-based Mediacorp Canada Inc. adopted the SME definition used by Statistics Canada, limiting the competition to private-sector commercial organizations with less than 500 employees.

Employers are evaluated according to the same eight key areas used for judging in the national competition of Canada's Top 100 Employers:

*Physical workplace.

*Work and social atmosphere.

*Health, financial and family benefits.

*Vacation and time off.

*Employee communications focused on how employers capture employee feedback.

* Performance management.

*Training and skills development.

*Community involvement.

Whether an employer has positive employment growth is also a factor in determining the basic cutoff point. Employers with layoffs in the previous year are automatically excluded from consideration. As well, the unique initiatives of each employer are taken into account.

Editor's note: The entry on eSentire Inc. has been corrected. The firm has 106 full-time staff in Canada, not 62, and had 74 available jobs last year, not 18.

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