If you work for NASA and do a really good job, an astronaut might give you this silver Snoopy pin.
Source: Nitrorat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Each pin is first flown on a mission into outer-freakin’-space, then presented to people on the ground who “significantly contributed to flight safety and mission success.” Fewer than one percent of the entire aerospace workforce receives a silver Snoopy pin each year.
Clearly, NASA knows how to pinspire their employees—and they’re not the only ones. Organizations like McDonald’s, Hard Rock Cafe, and Disney provide company pins as a part of their employee recognition program, too.
There’s loads of research that tells us why acts of employee recognition, like giving a company pin, are so popular. In this survey, HR leaders said a recognition program improved employee: culture, engagement, relationships, and experience. And this study from O.C. Tanner and Aon Hewitt found that employees who were regularly recognized were 26% more engaged than those who weren’t (higher employee engagement leads to lower turnover, fewer safety incidents, higher productivity, and increased sales).
It’s not just large companies that are all-in on pins, though. Pins are a perfect perk for businesses of all sizes because they’re:
- Inexpensive: It doesn’t take up a ton of HR’s budget.
- Memorable: You can create just about any design.
- Portable: Employees can wear them with pride (you’d look awfully silly wearing around your two-foot-tall employee of the month trophy).
Company lapel pins are a physical manifestation of the recognition and engagement that helps keep good employees thrilled to work for your company. The first step in creating a pin recognition program is to decide when you’ll give a pin. From the first day to the retirement party, here are 10 opportunities to show how much you appreciate your employees with a company enamel pin.
When they’ve been hired
New hires are the most susceptible to leaving a job. Give pins as part of your onboarding process to help build a sense of belonging, and you’ll have a better chance of keeping new employees around longer.
BetterUp, a management coaching service, found that a sense of workplace belonging actually cuts the risk of turnover by 50%. Not to mention increasing job performance by 56% and slashing employee sick days by 75%.
New hire pins can follow a traditional route, using a company logo like this one from Precision Products.
If you have a lot of new employees, you can also design a “Class of 20XX” pin to give them an additional sense of camaraderie with their fellow newbies.
They move to a new team
When an employee joins a new internal group or division, give them a pin that lets them know they’re part of the best team in the company.
Let’s say, for example, someone transfers from the Stamford branch to the Scranton branch of your paper company. You could give them a lapel pin that simply says, “The Scranton Branch.” Or your group might have a team nickname or inside joke that serves as your pin design.
Encouraging a little inter-office competition has its benefits. This scientific study from the Academy of Management (who would know a thing or two about it) showed that competition can improve motivation and team performance.
Of course, we all know that Scranton is the best, ‘cause there ain’t no party like a Scranton party.
They become a product expert
A pin that displays product expertise can show how you invest in employee development and help coworkers know who to ask for help.
A LinkedIn study revealed that 94% of people would stay at a job longer if the company invested in their career development.
@eyeofswazey wears this pin when she teaches HubSpot new hires about email deliverability.
She designed the pin herself and sent a handmade sketch to the WizardPins’ 🧙, who turned it into a piece of wearable art.
They hit years of service milestones
Give a pin for each significant year of service, and you’ll create an opportunity to celebrate your most loyal employees long after the initial honeymoon period.
Years of service awards are the most popular type of recognition program, with 85% of companies saying they have one. Those companies come from just about every industry. For example, both Taco Bell and Puget Sound Energy say that employee anniversary recognition is important.
Anniversary pins are popular with employees, too. Sometimes, they’ll even question why they haven’t gotten one.
Disney’s years of service pins have become famous in the pin collectors community.
They hit a safety goal
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there were 2.8 million reports of worker injury or illness in 2019. A safety recognition program, including a safe-worker pin, keeps safety top-of-mind.
EHS Today says that safety recognition programs are even better than monetary safety incentive programs for a couple of reasons.
First, incentive programs can become routine entitlements and encourage poor incident reporting behaviors, EHS Today says. Plus, recognition—the type you get with a safety award pin—is more personal and motivational.
There are a couple of ways you can go with our safe-worker pins:
You could tie the pin to a specific job function.
You could also connect it to a time frame, like years or hours without incident.
They’ve completed a project
There’s often a lot of fanfare when a big project is completed. Take another tip from NASA and give those who made the project successful a pin to remember the event.
For example, NASA created this pin for the Mercury 7, the seven astronauts who were the first to reach outer space.
The pin features the symbol for the element mercury entwined with the number 7.
There are lots of opportunities to give a company project pin, for example:
- When you launch (pun!) a new product
- When you open a new branch or facility
- When you rebrand or change ownership
So no, you don’t need to shoot an employee into outer space to warrant a project pin. Unless maybe you work for SpaceX.
When they give back
When an employee wears a pin that shows they’ve volunteered, they’re telling the world that the company they work for cares about more than just the bottom line.
Most employees (71% according to this survey) say it’s very important to work for a company that supports volunteering. So when others see your employees wearing their volunteer pins, it’s actually a talent recruitment tool.
Like the safety pin, you have options for the design of your volunteering pin.
A simple volunteer pin like this one is classic:
You could also design a pin for milestones of volunteering, like 100 or 1,000 hours served.
When they attend an event
Whether it’s a trade show, a volunteering event, or a group outing, a pin is an easy and fun way to commemorate your employees’ participation.
Plus, your employees become ambassadors of your brand without having to say a word. Since 71% of people buy from a brand they recognize, that extra bump of brand awareness is valuable.
Let’s say, for example, your company sponsored next year’s Catalina Wine Mixer.
When your company hits a milestone
Growth takes all hands. When your company hits its next new pinnacle, share a commemorative pin so everyone knows how important they were in achieving it.
Employees are more engaged when they understand how their work affects specific company goals. Here are a few company milestones that could use their own company pin:
- Customer count or revenue goal
- New funding
- Hitting a cultural goal ( e.g., 50% female employees)
Here’s a vintage milestone pin from McDonald’s:
It was given to a McDonald’s franchisee when they sold 100,000 hamburgers in a month.
When they retire
When an employee retires, you have one last opportunity to show appreciation for their efforts. A retirement pin as part of a bigger celebration will be a lasting reminder for the retiree that their work mattered.
It’s also another chance to show all employees that they’re valued in every stage of their employment.
The U.S. Navy doesn’t mess around with their retirement pins.
Put in your 20 years, and this stout lapel pin can be yours.
Make Your Company Lapel Pins a Collector’s Game
If you work at one of Fred Huebner’s McDonald’s restaurants, and you do a really good job, you’re likely to get a company lapel pin.
McFred, as he’s affectionately known, gives his 500+ employees a new pin every month as well as special recognition pins for a “perfect drawer” or “best drive-thru service.” Work there long enough, and you can create quite a collection of your own.
The takeaway? Add a layer of excitement to your employee recognition program by creating a pin-collecting economy. Once an employee earns a few pins, they’ll be eager to add more and even start trading with other teams to complete their collection.