How to Write an Award Letter to Recognize an Employee

An Award Letter Serves More Than One Purpose in Employee Recognition

Employee shares her award letter with her colleagues.


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The award letter is an opportunity to both thank a valued employee for his or her contribution and to reinforce the behaviors and actions for which the award is presented. The award letter doubles the impact of the recognition.

When the manager verbally presents the award and then reinforces why the employee is receiving it in a letter, the award is powerful. Depending on the employee, public recognition is just as powerful. (Know your employees. Some would find public recognition daunting.)

Organizations that hold periodic ceremonies or lunches to present awards are also effectively magnifying the impact of the award.

The meaningful award letter fulfills several purposes.

  • The award letter announces the award and describes the details of its amount/type and receipt options or details.
  • The manager uses the award letter as an opportunity to reinforce the behaviors that earned the employee the award.
  • The award letter differentiates the recipient’s performance so that the award has meaning to the employee who receives it.
  • The award letter thanks the recipient for his or her contribution that resulted in the award.
  • The award letter provides personal, special recognition for the recipient from the upper-level manager who presents the award notification.

The award letter comes from the recipient’s department head or a higher level manager so that the employee understands that the award is a big deal.

The award is generally presented in a way that lets other employees know that their coworker received the award and why. This publicity provides the organization with the opportunity to demonstrate that recognition is available for positive contributors. It enhances employee morale and assures employees that good work is noticed and rewarded. This reinforces the types of behavior the organization wants to see from employees.

If you follow these guidelines for an employee award letter, you will magnify the employee's feeling of accomplishment. The employee will keep your award letter where he or she keeps treasured mementos.

What's in an Award Letter?

The award letter recognizes the employee for making a positive contribution at work. It should specifically detail why the employee is receiving the recognition and the impact of the contribution on the company.

The letter should thank the employee and detail any gift, monetary award, or certificate that the employee is receiving as the recipient of the award. It should describe any function or ceremony that will be held to honor awardees and provide attendance details.

Finally, the award letter is signed by the employee's manager, at least, or ​the president or the CEO. If you go to the trouble of providing awards, recognize them for the big deal that they are for your employee recipients.

Make awards, recognition, and gratitude a regular feature of your workplace to recognize and retain your best employees.

The following sample award letters provide an example that you can use as a template when you write your award letters.

Sample Award Letter

This is an example of an award letter to recognize an employee. Download the award letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Sample award letter with recommendations
 @ The Balance 2018

Sample Award Letter (Text Version)

Mary Johnston
Director, Human Resources
Acme Paper Co.

September 1, 2018

Sandra Lau
Talent Recruiter
Acme Paper Co.

Dear Sandra,

This letter is your notification that you have been awarded a $1,000 spot bonus for your contributions to our recent search for a new employee in accounting. The accounting manager said that you handled the interview facilitation like an advanced HR professional. 

We loved hearing this as it the first time you have participated in an employee selection process. We are also positive that it won't be your last given the professionalism with which you participated in the selection. Terry Costanza said that the thoughtfulness of your interview questions helped all of the participants get to know the candidate very well.

She also said that you handled facilitating the sessions professionally despite the fact that many of the interviewers have job titles that place them two or three ranks in the organization above the level of your job. She said that you were fierce in your determination to keep the questioning on track—even the senior managers.

Another strength you exhibited was to sort through the resumes thoroughly. By the time Terry received them for review, you had truly singled out only the most qualified candidates. It saved her a lot of review time which she appreciated.

You can expect to receive your award at the HR/Accounting departments on Monday at our normal meeting. The other employees will get to hear about your positive contribution to the accounting selection team. We won't share the amount of your award with your coworkers, but we will mention that it is a substantial award that they are also eligible to receive.

Once again, thank you so much for your contribution and for making the HR department look good in the eyes of the employees we serve.


Mary Johnston

The Bottom Line

Award letters are a big deal for the employee who receives one. They are also a big deal for your organization. Rewarding, recognizing, and awarding employees is your best opportunity to thank and reinforce with your employees the types of behavior you want to see at work.