[LTR] An employee appreciation letter is a great way to acknowledge performance and, even more important, to strengthen employee loyalty. To be effective, however, these letters must contain meaningful content in an effective style. It's too easy to write out standard copy that could apply to just about anyone. Here are ten suggestions for making employee appreciation letters powerful tools for human resource development:

Number 1: Limit the number of letters. Busy managers may not have trouble with this point. But it's important to emphasize because too frequent delivery reduces the perceived value of the letter as an acknowledgement of work well done.

Number 2: Consider the many different and useful forms an employee appreciation letter can take, from a hand written note from the CEO following completion of a challenging project, to a five paragraph letter to be read aloud at a special ceremony.

Number 3: Avoid too much formality. Unless your company is extremely polite, always address the letter to the employee in the first person, e.g. "Dear Richard" rather than "Dear Mr. Smith."

Number 4: Begin your letter by stating what it is about. For example: "Dear Martha: This letter can only begin to acknowledge your outstanding role in Valley View Hospital's housekeeping services. From your initial hiring as a junior associate to your promotion a few years later to manager, your patience, courtesy and hard work have inspired everyone, from surgeons and vice presidents to pharmacists and phlebotomists."

With content like this, you start by being very clear about why the employee is being acknowledged-in this case, a very special person whose hard work and personality have had a noted positive effect on the whole community.

Number 5: Within the letter, include specific examples of services provided, such as sales quotas surpassed, large numbers of new volunteers engaged, successful leadership in creation of a new laboratory, or even steady attention to detail and proven reliability over time.

Number 6: Be sure to include quotations from at least two people who either supervise or work for the recipient of your letter. Quotations serve as evidence that your appreciation is real, not rote. They show that you are really paying attention to the employee's performance.

Number 7: In cases where you are acknowledging highly valuable performance, be sure to copy one or two senior officers of the company. For example, if your employee's contribution has involved outstanding recruitment of new IT staff, copy the chief information officer and the relevant department head.

Number 8: In cases where you are acknowledging highly valuable performance, be sure to copy one or two senior officers of the company. For example, if your employee's contribution has involved outstanding recruitment of new IT staff, copy the chief information officer and the relevant department head. Copies should also be noted for inclusion in the employee's personnel file.

Number 9: Always use company letterhead, of course, and provide, at the least, a folder for safe keeping. In some cases it may be appropriate to frame the letter. If a bonus or check is not part of the process, a small gift may help to emphasize your appreciation. Do not under any circumstances use stamped signatures, and do everything possible to ensure that the signature is actually that of the person the letter is from, not an office assistant.

Number 10: Close your letter with a final statement of appreciation. And, as with any written material, find someone else to read it over for you, and read it aloud yourself, to test the wording and the flow. Your employee will appreciate it!

Copyright (c) 2010 Jane Sherwin. You may reprint this entire article and you must include the copyright info and the following statement: "Jane Sherwin is a writer who helps hospitals and other healthcare facilities communicate their strengths and connect with their readers."

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