handwritten notes in business

Guest Post by Ritch K. Eich

When you receive a communication from your boss or a workplace colleague, it’s most likely in the form of an email or text. Regardless of its form, a “thank you” is always welcome—but there is something special about receiving a handwritten note.

Let’s face it: in business, handwritten letters and notes are going the way of CD, VCRs and landlines. In business, having an electronic record of what you’ve sent or received can make things a lot easier down the road if a problem arises. Paperless means no more shuffling through files or piles of paper stacked on your desk.

Handwritten messages have been replaced by emails, instant messaging, Facebook status updates, tweets and texts—all forms of communication that are ubiquitous because we often don’t take the time to think about what it is we want to convey in the message we are sending. Add to that; we often hit the “send” button before we should, and sometimes to the wrong person! Have you ever had that sinking feeling after you’ve hit the “reply all” command when it should have been just “reply”?

Standing Out With the Help of a Handwritten Note

In an age of online communication, a handwritten note can help you stand out. I’m not advocating turning back the clock and bringing back typewriters we now use as vintage decor. But handwritten correspondence—especially thank you notes—do have a place in today’s hurry-up-and-get-it-done workplace. By their nature, handwritten notes are more personal, and that personal touch is missing from most electronic messaging today.

Email has certainly had a positive effect on the workplace. According to a study from the Pew Research Center released in early 2015, 61 percent of workers indicated that email was very important to their jobs. In 2015, the total number of emails sent and received worldwide per day was 205 billion according to the Silicon Valley research group, Radicati! More than half of those were through businesses.

Handwritten notes make you stand out in a world jammed with instant messaging. Recipients are almost always taken aback—in a good way. They understand that handwriting a note takes more time and requires more thought. Even if it says the same thing as a text or email, there’s no template or “auto-correct”: the recipient will appreciate that a lot more went into creating it. As Dan Post Senning wrote on EmilyPost.com, “You can’t hold digital thanks in your hands the way you can hold a note. When was the last time you printed out an e-card? Email is read and deleted. A mailed note is seen again and again on a desk or counter. Would you rather your thanks be remembered or deleted?”

When you put pen to paper, you are forced to think about what you are writing because you can’t simply hit the delete key. The fact that it takes longer to write out a personal note also speaks volumes to the recipients—that you took valuable time from your busy day to write a note just for them. Not just a personal note but a personal handwritten note. It’s the difference between receiving the gift of a scarf, for example, from a local department store, and one that someone created especially for you. Both are thoughtful, but the handcrafted gift means more.

It is unrealistic and impractical to handwrite every note you send so choose the ones you want to send carefully—a team member who went the extra mile; a new client whose account you worked hard to acquire; a vendor who came through by accommodating a challenging schedule.

A truly personal note to a client, colleague or vendor has many benefits including:

  • Differentiating yourself by being thought of as humble and caring.
  • Being perceived as considerate for finding time to write personally.
  • Ensuring your message doesn’t get buried under a mountain of newer texts and emails—or deleted. A personal or handwritten message will stand out and be remembered for a long time, even if it gets filed away.
  • Strengthening employee morale, heightening productivity, facilitating interpersonal communication and helping to retain team members who will feel more appreciated—all of which can lead to reduced recruiting and training costs.

Personal letters, including those written by hand, can have a powerful impact and move public opinion as well. According to a 2013 Harvard Business School article by Dina Gerdeman titled, “Pulling Campbell’s Out of the Soup,” during his tenure at Campbell’s Soup, CEO Douglas Conant wrote 30,000 handwritten notes to employees at all levels in the organization as part of his strategy to turn the company around. In “A Thank You Note from Mark Zuckerberg” that appeared in the February 5, 2014 edition of the Washington Post, legendary management expert and author Tom Peters stressed the importance of handwritten notes when he said, “Barely readable scrawl is best. It really says you’re being personal.

The next time you want to congratulate someone for a job well done, thank your boss for giving you a raise, inspire a newly hired worker, or show appreciation to a client, write it by hand. You—and the note’s recipient—will be pleasantly surprised by the end result!

Guest Post

Ritch K. EichRitch K. Eich is the former Chief of Public Affairs for Blue Shield of CA and is a Captain, U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.). He is the author of three books: Truth, Trust + Tenacity: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders (2015); Leadership Requires Extra Innings: Lessons on Leading from a Life in the Trenches (2013); Real Leaders Don’t Boss: Inspire, Motivate and Earn Respect from Employees and Watch Your Organization Soar (2012).