3 Things Every Open Enrollment Communications Plan Should Include
  • Tools & Best Practices

3 Things Every Open Enrollment Communications Plan Should Include

As open enrollment season kicks into high gear, employee communication becomes the name of the game for benefit professionals like you.

At Benefitfocus, enabling strategic communication is a key area of focus when it comes to our technology and services, as well as the conversations we have with our customers and the additional support we offer them throughout the year—such as through our One Place Local networking events and our annual Open Enrollment Success Kit.

One of the biggest things that we stress is the importance of having a comprehensive open enrollment communications plan that uses multiple channels to engage employees and allows them to consume information in a way that fits their needs and preferences.

There's a large and ever-growing list of communication channels at your disposal, but, based on our experience and what we've learned from our customers, there are currently three primary channels that no open enrollment communications plan should be without today:

1. Snail Mail and Email: Tried and True

We’ll start with what could be considered “legacy channels of communication”—traditional printed materials, sent via post, and company-wide emails. While these tactics are nothing new (and not exactly exciting), they remain an important part of your overall open enrollment communications plan.

It's just that now it's time to think more strategically about how you use snail mail and email.

When it comes to snail mail, the pros are that it’s hard for employees to ignore, it's tactile and it's portable. On the other hand, it could be costly to produce and mail compared to electronic communications. It really depends on the dynamics of your workforce whether snail mail is worth it to your organization. For instance, Benefitfocus has a customer with lot of employees on the road, scattered across the U.S. So they rely heavily on snail mail to get information to the spouse, who oftentimes is the household's benefits decision maker.

Email, while relatively much newer to the scene than snail mail, is firmly entrenched in most every employer's open enrollment communications plan. And rightfully so. Email is the cheapest, most efficient method of communication at your disposal. It can reach more people, in less time, at a lower cost than just about anything. But that certainly doesn't mean it's easy, as you're likely well aware.

When you use email, you're operating in an increasingly crowded space. The average employee currently receives over 100 emails per day, so you’ve got to think about 1) how your emails are going to stand out to employees in their inbox, so they open them, and 2) whether the content in the email is approachable enough and easy enough to consume that employees can really “get” the message.

Read more about how you can create the perfect open enrollment email.

2. Mobile: Meeting Employees Where They Are

Effective communication is all about meeting people where they are. And for the most part, where your employees are is tethered to their smartphones.

For better or worse, mobile devices have become a way of life. Just a few quick stats on the current state of affairs:

  • 77% of American adults own a smartphone1
  • One in five Americans are dependent on their smartphone for internet access1
  • 98% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received2

What this ultimately means is that there's both a need and an expectation among your employees for on-demand access to information in the palm of their hand. So a focus on mobile for open enrollment communications is critical. Sharing benefit information, and actually allowing employees to enroll in their benefits anywhere, anytime from any device is quickly becoming table stakes for companies who want to recruit and retain the best employees.

You may be familiar with the commercials for Rocket Mortgage® that have been running over the last year or so. If you step back and think about that technology, what you essentially have is just a few swipes and clicks of the thumb to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. If we’re willing to turn to mobile for arguably the most expensive and complex purchase we’ll make in life, then why should benefits be any different?

That's one of our key philosophies at Benefitfocus, which is why our technology features a mobile-first design and includes a native mobile app for iOS and Android that enables employees to access educational materials, enroll in coverage and make life event changes from the convenience of their mobile device—with just a few swipes and clicks of the thumb.

Learn how American Eagle Outfitters took advantage of the Benefitfocus mobile app to engage employees and drive health plan participation goals.

3. Video: The Communication King

Along the same vein of things that have become ingrained in us as a way to consume information, video is arguably the most effective and engaging form of communication you have at your disposal.

Consider that one minute of video can convey the same amount of information as nearly 2 million words.3 That level of efficiency simply can't be topped.

Plus, employees largely prefer video for education, with 75 percent more likely to watch a video than read about something. And that's likely because most people are visual learners4, but on top of that, video tends to add more humanity to complex subjects. Whether it’s through fun animation that simplifies benefit terminology, or a familiar face from the company walking employees through their enrollment options, there’s a greater sense of empathy that can be conveyed through video than most other means of communication.

Video is therefore a major priority for us at Benefitfocus. Our customers work with our in-house media team and studio to incorporate video into their open enrollment communications plans.

Learn more about how BENEFITFOCUS® Video can help you save time, reduce costs and engage employees before, during and after open enrollment.


1. Pew Research Center: Mobile Fact Sheet

2. Dynamark: "Mobile Intelligence Review"

3. Forrester Research: How Video Will Take Over the World

4. Social Science Research Network: Reaching the Visual Learner