Promotions are exciting for both your company and the employee whom you're promoting, but you shouldn't let your excitement get in the way of formalities. Any time you promote an employee, they should be sent a promotion letter to confirm their promotion, the increased pay rate, new responsibilities and more. A letter helps you hold the employee accountable as he or she transitions into their new role, and long after. Promotion letters don't take long to write, and they don't have to be as rigid as other business documents, though they should be formal.
What is a promotion letter?
A promotion letter formally details an employee's new, higher position within your company. Typically, a promotion letter doesn't commence discussions about promotions; instead, it is a follow-up to ongoing conversations you've had with the employee about the promotion. As such, it's less about presenting new information than confirming all of the details you and your employee have discussed relating to their new position, pay, and duties. It's also a chance for you to congratulate them and express your gratitude to the employee.
What should you include in a promotion letter?
A promotion letter should include the following:
- The employee's full name and contact information. Although a promotion letter should be relatively casual, you should still list your employee's contact information toward the top of your promotion letter.
- The employee's new title. In addition to pay and responsibility changes come new titles. You should indicate your employee's new title in the promotion letter so they can include it in their email signature and share it on LinkedIn, if they want to.
- Relevant pay, work hour and payday changes. Even though you and your employee have verbally discussed what the promotion will mean for their pay, you should clearly state these details in your promotion letter. You should also indicate any changes in work hours or pay schedules that accompany the employee's promotion and when these changes take effect.
- The employee's responsibilities in their new role. Promotions typically entail added responsibilities, and as your employee transitions between positions, some crucial business needs can go overlooked if the employee is unaware of their requirements. That's why you want to clearly state all of the employee's responsibilities in the promotion letter. In doing so, you hold the promoted employee accountable while keeping your operations on track.
- The employee's supervisor(s) in their new role. If your employee is being appointed head of a department, they'll likely no longer have someone within their department to report to – instead, they might report directly to you. Include this detail in your promotion letter.
- The official start date of your employee's promotion. A promotion doesn't necessarily take effect on delivery of a promotion letter. That's why you should state when the promotion begins. This way, there are no delays or missteps in the employee's transition to their new role.
- A request for the employee to accept the promotion. Even if your employee has verbally accepted the promotion, ask them to respond to your letter by providing a written response accepting the promotion. By doing so, your employee formally accepts their promotion and officially puts the gears in motion for their new role.
- An expression of gratitude. A promotion letter should also be an opportunity for you to tell the employee how grateful you are for their work. Sure, a promotion is one way to show that you value and trust the employee (and their work), but including a personal message that expresses your gratitude is also a great way to reduce employee turnover.
How to write a promotion letter
In addition to the above tips, here are a handful of tips to keep in mind as you write your letter:
- Use a formal template. Although promotion letters are less formal than other business documents, they should still adhere to some level of formality. Building your letter from a template helps you achieve this goal.
- Edit and proofread the letter with a colleague. As with any business document, you should edit and proofread your promotion letter before sending it to the employee. Ideally, you should have someone else in your company – perhaps someone from your HR department – read a draft of the letter. This way, you catch any errors, such as inaccurate pay amounts and incorrect titles before the employee receives the letter.
- Find the right balance between formal and casual. Yes, you can use an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence in which you congratulate your employee. Beyond that, stick to periods and avoid language you wouldn't use in formal documents (though contractions are acceptable). Do not use slang abbreviations and emojis in your emails – while they may be common, these items do not belong in a promotion letter.
Why is a promotion letter important?
There are several reasons why you want a promotion letter instead of verbally discussing, and then enacting, a promotion with no paper trail.
- Promotion letters help ensure that intangible conversations are more concrete. It's one thing for you and your employee to have a mutual interest in a promotion. It's another, though, to ensure you both have the same understanding about the new role and duties and the transition to the new role. A formal promotion letter ensures that no details are left behind in the transition. The result is a promotion that pleases both you and your employee.
- Promotion letters formalize pay changes. Many promotions include a pay raise, and you should always document such raises in writing.
- Promotion letters outline new responsibilities. Transitions between roles – and the changes accompanying them – can be overwhelming. If the employee or you have questions, you can both refer to the promotion letter.
- Promotion letters show gratitude. In business, it can be easy to focus solely on the bottom line. But this tendency can lead to you not recognizing the contributions of your employees. At the end of the day, demonstrating your gratitude to valuable employees can further motivate them.
Promotion letter example
To build your promotion letter, copy the below example into your word processor and replace the relevant details as needed:
Subject: Promotion for [Name of employee]
Congratulations on your promotion to [New title] at [Company name]! Your promotion is effective [date at which promotion takes effect].
Your new salary will be [salary] per year, paid [pay schedule, e.g., semimonthly, monthly, etc.]. You will report to [Name of new manager and their title] and maintain your 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday work schedule. [Name of new manager] is looking forward to working closely with you.
Your responsibilities will be to [Detail the employee's new responsibilities]. Our employee handbook has additional details on what the [new title] role entails.
Again, congratulations on your promotion. The company and I are very grateful for all of the work you have done to date – and the work you'll do in your new role. If you accept this promotion, please reply to this email and acknowledge your acceptance of the promotion.