Being a manager, business owner or entrepreneur is tough. You’re juggling dozens of seemingly unrelated tasks, the stakes are high, and if you make one mistake it could be the end of your business. Your employees are critical to the success of your business. You need their work, dedication, and sometimes even patience. As a leader, sometimes you need to let them know how much they mean and what you need. One method of doing this is using a motivation letter for employees. A letter outlining their accomplishments, their value, and often, goals or challenges ahead.
About Motivation Letters
What is a motivation letter?
A motivation letter is a communication to a reader that is designed to inspire some action or decision from them. Often, we use the term in association with applying for something such as a scholarship, school, or program. A cover letter is similar to a motivation letter, but for a job. In these cases, you are trying to motivate the reader to select you as the best candidate.
For a leader, a motivation letter is often to motivate a behavior or goal from their employees. These kinds of communications are common in workplaces. Sadly, they’re often not effective, sometimes even harmful. Leaders don’t think through the impact of their message or phrasing.
While we use the term “letter”, in today’s workplace, these are more often emails. Our discussion and sample will assume a written, mailed letter. The same verbiage will work for an email, just remove the address portion.
Why Should You Consider A Motivation Letter To Your Employees
While you can write a letter to your employees at any time, a motivation letter should be reserved for when you need a particular action, behavior, or goal from your employees. You are trying to motivate them to do something. You need to make it clear what you need and why you need it.
How to Write a Motivation Letter to Your Employees
These letters are not easy. For many leaders, this isn’t a natural form of communication. We are going to try to provide you with some techniques to help you be able to write effective motivation letters to your employees.
Preparing to Write Your Letter
The first thing that you need to do is to articulate what it is that you need from your employees. What are you trying to motivate them to do? This is often much more difficult than it seems. You feel like it is clear in your own mind, but it isn’t as clear when you try to express it in writing.
As yourself what the future looks like if this is achieved. In other words, what does success look like and how will you know? Once you have that, then you can tackle the harder question of what is in it for the employees. Remember that not everyone wants to see improved corporate valuation or even more profit. How will you and your employees know that you succeeded?
The hardest part is considering the employee perspective. It can be worth finding some employees who will give you honest feedback and discuss it with them. This can often be difficult. Employees don’t often feel open to giving honest feedback to bosses. The further up the food chain you are, the harder this is.
If they are willing to share with you, you need to ensure that you are open to the feedback. You cannot get angry or you will shut it down immediately. Listen to words they use and perspectives they share. Above all – listen!
Consider what this means for your employees. If you are asking them to produce more, work harder or work more this means more stress for them, more time away from families, less sleep. It can be worth writing down the changes you are seeking and forcing yourself to write down what it means for them. There will be bad in this for them and you need to recognize that.
These are all important parts of your message. Now write down any recent challenges or accomplishments. You need to set the stage in your letter and this is important.
Writing Your Motivation Letter for Employees
As you sit down to write your letter, you can open with recent accomplishments or challenges. Recognize your employees’ part in that. This could be the hard work that they’ve already completed or the sacrifices that they made.
Then you can move into an explanation of the future state and why. This is the outcome that you are looking for. We aren’t to their part yet (though they’ll often figure it out.) Show them the end state and articulate why that’s good. Sometimes, this is because of difficult times “with a depressed economy we need to do everything we can to protect everyone’s jobs” or celebrating an opportunity “our latest contract with XYZ corporation is a chance to grow our company by over ten percent.” Again, consider their perspective and what it means to them. Growing the company is irrelevant to them if they don’t get something from it.
Then, you can move to their part. Describe the action, the outcome and recognize any sacrifice. “To meet the demands of this order, we will be asking everyone to work extra hours. We know that this means more time away from your families. We can’t do this without you we need orders like these to be successful in this challenging market.” If there is an upside for them, point it out but things like “the overtime are great” often isn’t motivational. You just told them you NEED them to do the overtime. That’s not the same as the feeling like it’s a privilege.
Avoid the temptation to write a long letter. Most of them won’t read it anyway. You can include a link to an FAQ or something or post common questions. You can also give them away to submit questions. They aren’t going to read a long letter and your message will get lost. A few paragraphs are often best.
You do want to make an effort to thank your employees. Recognize their contribution and their importance to the company. Feeling valued can be incredibly motivating for most of us. Not all employees are in it for greed. In fact, likely most aren’t.
These letters can be difficult to write. Some companies will even hire firms to do it for them. If you know what motivates your employees then you can write this.
Reviewing the Letter
Before you hit send, have several people read it. These should be employees who are familiar with the motivations of your target audience. Again, the key here is being open to their feedback. If they tell you it stinks, listen to why and rewrite it. Don’t defend it and don’t explain it. Limit yourself to questions that clarify what they are telling you.
If you can get this kind of feedback, it can be invaluable and avoid a big mistake.
Here are a few of the common mistakes we see from leaders who are trying to motivate their employees. These can help your motivation letter for your employees to be more effective.
- Not understanding the employee’s perspective – It’s hard to understand another person’s perspective. What’s unfortunate is that many of us just want to think that our bosses understand us. Consider what it means for your employees for their sacrifice and hard work. A recent letter recognizing the passing of an employee described her willingness to pick up shifts. This one line angered their coworkers and made them all feel less valued. They aren’t looking at spreadsheets when they consider their value.
- Telling Rather Than Motivating – You are trying to motivate them to do something. Of course, you can tell them. Sometimes, you have to. Often, though, that doesn’t motivate and you may get something called malicious compliance or apathetic compliance. Either way, they won’t be fully invested and give as much as they could.
- Not Testing the Letter – Often, a leader will send one of these letters without the vulnerability of letting someone else read it first. That’s your prerogative but it’s less likely to be effective. Ask for feedback, and listen to it.
It’s hard being the boss. We all want the best for our companies and our employees. Unfortunately, we need to prove that with our communications and our actions.
Sample Motivation Letter for Our Employees
Below, we share a sample letter for employees that you can use to get an idea of the structure. You need to use the process above and write your own but hopefully, this will help get you started.
Good luck and let us know how it goes. Have you found anything that works? Or maybe something that doesn’t? Please share it. We can all learn from each other.