10 ways to write thank you notes to employees

Last updated:
December 14, 2020
December 16, 2021
min read
Sim Samra
Table of contents

Do you ever think of sending a thank you note to employees? Probably not because a recent Gallup Poll revealed that around 65% of employees in the USA feel underappreciated at work. It's unlikely that global stats would be very different.

Also, articles on ways to stay motivated when you feel underappreciated at work abound when you do a quick internet search. Is that normal; should so many people feel invisible in the workplace? Considering that the average employee spends around 1,800 hours a year at work, that's a lot of time feeling miserable.

Tight deadlines, endless market competition, and never-ending time urgency can make it easy to overlook the very people business owners rely on for success. "Thank you for your efforts" can quickly become the last thing on a manager's mind as they race from one project to the next.

Why managers don't say thank you to employees

The two most common reasons would be that it doesn't occur to them or that they don't have the time. Many business leaders could argue that they pay their employees well, offer benefits, and give an annual raise.

That argument isn't unreasonable! Employment contacts are, in a way, like standard sales contracts - payment in exchange for time, skills, and experience. But sales contracts are for goods or services that have very little personal connection.

An employment contract invites a person to become part of a company and team; the relationship is personal. When people feel disconnected and unseen in any situation, they become unhappy, stressed, and demotivated.

In the workplace, you end up with a disengaged and largely unproductive workforce. The costs in lost production, days off, and continuous new hires are difficult to qualify, but it's substantial.

People are emotional beings, not inanimate objects

From the ground up, all the way to the executive suites, we are driven by emotions – both positive and negative. We all have a number of basic human needs to lead a happy and fulfilled life. Included are significance, connection, growth, and contribution.

You might've noticed that money and wealth aren't one of them! Yes, money makes our lives easier and meets our survival needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. but generally, employees aren't living on the edge of mere survival.

Our need for significance, connection, growth, and contribution follows us into the workplace. We want to feel that we have some purpose and value beyond just doing what we have to so that we get paid. As a result, most people will give their best at work, for their team and their company.

That can, however, soon decline into going through the motions if no one ever thanks you for your efforts.

Make saying thank you for a well-done job part of your company culture

Recognition at all levels should be written into your company values and lived out every day towards staff, suppliers, customers, and anyone else.

Embracing a culture change to include recognition will make a regular thank you note to employees the norm rather than the exception.

Many organizations send out an annual thank you letter to employees for their hard work at year-end, but these are usually generic, long, and boring and get binned very quickly. They don't come across as heartfelt.

A thank you note to employees is different. It can be sent to an individual or a team, but it's an honest and sincere token of appreciation. It addresses the employee by their first name, mentions what they've done and why it's exceptional. It's a mini-celebration!

A company that makes recognition and caring part of their core values will build it into their employer branding. People want that - so it will make you an employer of choice as well.

Thank you notes don't have to be formal

If someone is being promoted, then a formal thank you letter to an employee for a job well done is in order. It's usually sent by HR and co-signed by the department manager. But a thank you note to employees doesn't have to be formal.

A handwritten note, email or thank you picture is just as effective. They're also quick to compile and don't have to go through HR. Also, they don't have to come from managers or team leads only; thank you messages to colleagues for hard work should be encouraged. It builds team spirit and bonds people. It feeds our innate need for significance, connection, and contribution within a team.

These attributes contribute to building winning teams. It's easier for people who feel connected and that they're making a contribution to work towards a common goal. In other words, encouraging colleagues to send thank you notes to each other increases motivation, and in turn, productivity will improve.

Don't forget soft skills

There's always a team dynamic, and you'll have the experts, the drivers, and planners, but don't overlook the employee who's always positive. Or the person who adopts a nurturing role and keeps the team calm and focused under pressure.

An appreciation email from the rest of the team for a personal attribute can make someone feel fantastic. Match the wording to the person's personality, and you'll make their day. Small gestures make a huge difference and encourage employee engagement.

At the end of a stressful week or hectic project, a thank you email example can be a simple as:

  • Hey Jo

    We wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for your quick smile and quirky comments.
  • Hi Ann

    Thanks for keeping us all sane when we all thought we were going crazy.

People who are inclined to support others can easily be overlooked. By acknowledging them, they will feel valued, and the whole team will get a feel-good rush.

Match yourthank-you note to the person and the deed

Industries differ, and so does diversity in the workplace. Always consider this when writing your thank you note. This is for two reasons:

  • It shows care and respect.
  • It shows that you appreciate individuality.

For example, you might be quite relaxed and informal, but want to thank an employee who's more formal and restrained. A quirky joke might not have the impact you want. Conversely, if you're formal and restrained and wish to thank an out-there creative employee, ask colleagues for some input. You want a "wow – how did you know I'd love that?" response.

You must avoid generic thank you notes to teams or individuals. If people keep seeing the same thing, it will seem false. A personal touch makes all the difference.

Employee recognition can be in any format

There are times when formal recognition letters, thank you for your service letters, thank you letters to employers, and the like are appropriate. But to bring appreciation and recognition into your everyday company culture, thank you cards for employees, notes, pictures, and emails are quicker. They're also more spontaneous and genuine.

There are a gazillion reasons and ways to thank employees and colleagues for their hard work and contribution.

Here are 10 examples

  1. Thank you for your ongoing dedication to your job and our clients. You're always willing to go above and beyond, and it doesn't go unnoticed. We love you as much as our clients do!
  2. Since joining our team, your contribution has become invaluable. Thank you for your eager commitment to every project.
  3. You're creative and innovative, and that's precisely what we need when we feel stuck for ideas. We value your input far more than you know.
  4. Thank you for taking the time to help us rearrange the department. Without your time and knowledge, we would not have succeeded.
  5. There's nothing like having your team complimented in an exco-meeting, and that's what happened today. I'm only as good as my team; your dedication is the reason why this team is getting noticed. Thank you, each and all.
  6. Thank you for being the boss that you are. You're always willing to teach and motivate us, even when you don't have the time – you make time for us.
  7. You've shown leadership way beyond what's expected from you. Thank you for standing in for me while I was away.
  8. Your ability to see the positive in every challenge is what inspires your colleagues. You're a pleasure to work with, and we appreciate you very much.
  9. You've set the pace over the past few months and raised the benchmark for achievement. Thank you.
  10. Your dedication to helping us through this challenging time hasn't gone unnoticed. We'd not have come through it without your contribution. We appreciate you more than you think we do.

It doesn't have to end there...

If you're a manager, you don't have to stop with a thank you note to employees. You can give them an afternoon (or a day) off, take them to lunch, or let a team choose a fun activity at the company's expense. If you're thanking a colleague, how about a special cup of coffee with their favorite muffin?

Notes to employees can also be sent for birthdays, anniversaries, and even as welcome notes from team members for new hires. Make that an addition to your new employee checklist.

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