Irrespective of industry, level or job title; employees have one thing in common. In an ever changing and challenging work climate, employees want to know that their hard work has not gone unnoticed. It does not matter how ‘engaged’ organisations believe workers are – it is critical that they take a moment to reflect and acknowledge that the extra ‘elbow grease’ the employee is demonstrating is discretionary and can stop at any time.

No employer has an endless bucket of money to use in a reward program, so it is worth noting that recognition is on the rise as an essential element in the leader’s toolkit. Recognition only takes a few minutes to do, but it can have a lasting impact on the recipient. Of course, it is not the same as a golden ticket to an elusive Taylor Swift concert or free car parking; but nevertheless, employee appreciation letters can leave your team member feeling noticed and valued.

What are employee appreciation letters?

Employee appreciation letters are written communications that express gratitude and recognition for the hard work and achievements of employees. They can be formal, semi-formal, or casual, depending on the occasion and the relationship between the sender and the recipient. These letters will take various forms such as certificates, cards, notes, letters or emails.  

They are growing in popularity as they provide employers with a ‘no cost’ way to authentically show their gratitude and thanks to an employee or group or employees. It can be for a specific event, (such as working back when the systems went down) or for continuing to demonstrate values or actions that are highly regarded.

Employee appreciation letters are most effective when they are unprompted. If you notice an employee is disgruntled because they have been burning the midnight oil, it is not the time to slip them a thankyou email. In this instance, the leader will need to go into damage control. Perhaps the best way to remember it is the ‘leadership 101’ tool that says “catch them doing something right and recognise that behaviour”.

What are some of the common reasons to give an employee appreciation letter?

There are unlimited reasons why a leader would provide an appreciation or thankyou letter to their employee. The common reasons for an employer to say thank you include:

  • Reaching or exceeding a tough goal.
  • Demonstrating teamwork at a level not expected.
  • Stepping up to absorb extra responsibilities.
  • Sharing an innovative idea that directly benefits the business, customer, or team members.
  • Devising a solution to a business issue.
  • Demonstrating amazing behaviours that reflect the organisation’s values.
  • Achieving a large new customer account of sale.
  • Showing leadership skills and/or work ethic beyond the level of responsibility

Employers can find out more in our FAQs here.

What are some of the benefits of employee appreciation letters (EAL)?

There are many benefits to providing the employee an EAL, and this will vary between individuals. There are, however, some common benefits to both the employee and the employer.

  • They boost employee motivation and engagement: Employee appreciation letters show the employees that their efforts are noticed and valued by their managers and peers. It demonstrates that their hard work has been appreciated by the business. This can have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, retention, engagement and continued effort. Furthermore, according to a study by Gallup, employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged, productive and committed to their work.
  • They foster a positive and supportive work culture: Employee appreciation letters create a culture of appreciation and gratitude in the workplace, where employees feel respected and appreciated for their contributions. There is no question that when done well, EALs increase collaboration, teamwork and trust between leaders and their team members.  In addition, according to a study by Harvard Business Review, a culture of appreciation can reduce employee turnover, absenteeism, and stress, and improve customer satisfaction, innovation, and profitability.
  • They reinforce the desired behaviours and outcomes: Employee appreciation letters can help to align the employees’ goals with the organisation’s vision, mission, values, and strategy. Employees sometimes think that they are ‘just doing their job’ and talented employees with a high work ethic have already lifted the bar so it is important to let them know that they are valued. EALs encourages employees to keep doing the right stuff. According to a study by Deloitte, organisations that have a clear and consistent recognition program have 31% lower voluntary turnover than those that do not.

Employee appreciation letters are a powerful and cost-effective way to demonstrate to employees that they are important and valued by the business. However, it is important that leaders take the time to strike the right balance in the letter to ensure that they are genuine and meaningful. Some key tips include:

  • Be timely. There is no point sending an EAL a month after a team member worked over their weekend to get a key project over the line. Employees will best associate the letter with their effort and behaviours if the timing is aligned.
  • Be specific. Writing, “I appreciated your work” is not clear or specific. Instead outline what you are thankful for. For example, “I recognise that you put in a lot of your own time to ensure that the project was completed on time and with great professionalism. That has helped our team to maintain our brand for delivering quality products.” This leaves the worker with no question about what specifically was valued.
  • Be sincere. Employees will spot a disingenuous letter a mile off. It is important that this is not done as a ‘tick a box’ but rather as a sincere gesture that is not patronising. Consider your audience when choosing the tone of the letter.
  • Be personal. It is highly recommended that leaders consider how the worker likes to be recognised and whether they would like a letter that is ‘to the point’ or is descriptive and passionate. Some employees would love to know that the senior leaders are copied in and others will be embarrassed by this. The bottom line is leaders need to know their audience or risk missing the mark.

Sometimes, it is the simple things that matter most.

Employee appreciation letters are a simple and effective way to show your employees that you appreciate them and their work. By writing and sending employee appreciation letters regularly, you can create a positive and supportive work environment, where employees are motivated, engaged, and productive. Don’t miss your opportunity to catch your employees doing something right – today is the day to show your appreciation.

Further Information

Employers can access our FAQs on Employee Appreciation letters and also download our sample templates here. AI Group has a brand new Remuneration and Reward section that contains over 50 new tools, templates and resources to support members with their strategy.

Join Ai Group today!

Take advantage of more than 150 years of experience actively solving Members’ workplace issues and representing their interests at the highest levels of national and state government. Being a Member of Ai Group makes good business sense. 

Call us on 1300 55 66 77 or visit our Why join page to sign up for a consultation with one of our member representatives.

Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.