Employee Benefits Communication Email Best Practices

Benefits Communication: 3 Things the Most Effective Emails Do

How many emails do you receive and send each day? If you're like most of us, you probably lose track even before your second cup of coffee. We're swimming in those things!

Though it's been challenged somewhat by social media in recent years, email is still the undisputed communication king. Relative to other communication tools, email is unmatched in terms of ease, efficiency and cost effectiveness. It can reach more people, in less time, at a lower cost than just about anything. That's why, when you need to communicate to your employees about their benefits, you turn to email.

But email's greatest strength - its universality - can also be its greatest weakness. The constant bombardment of our inboxes from all directions makes it difficult to discern what's most important and relevant to us. We couldn't possibly read through every single email we receive, or we'd never be able to take our eyes off our screens. Consequentially, the actual substance of the email ultimately matters less than how it's presented.

Marketing professionals know this, which is why they sometimes will spend an entire week working on an email. One subtle tweak can eventually be the difference in thousands of dollars in revenue. 

Most likely, you can't block off an entire week to work on an open enrollment email. So here are just three quick tips - straight out of the Email Marketing 101 textbook - to help you create effective, engaging benefits communication that cuts through all the noise in your employees' inboxes:

1. Craft an eye-catching subject line.

Even though it goes against everything our mothers taught us, people do judge emails by their subject lines.

In fact, 35 percent of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone. That's why it's so important to make your subject lines compelling enough to get your employees to click and read on. Here's how:

  • Personalize it. Relevancy is everything when your employees are scanning through their inboxes. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened. That doesn't mean you have to include individual employees' names in your subject lines. Through targeted messaging tools, you can personalize by higher-level details like managerial level, geographic location or marital status to establish immediate relevancy. But if those tools are unavailable to you, don't forget the power of the word "you." Speak directly to employees, and they'll be more likely to open your email.
  • Tell them what's inside. People want to have a good idea of what they're getting when they click on an email, or else they might not click on it. Generic-sounding subject lines rarely spark a reader’s interest. Be specific about the content or topic of your message. That's not to say you can't leave some intrigue at play. You want your employees to wonder about the details. Just make it clear what's waiting for them inside the email.
  • Create a sense of urgency. Pressure drives clicks. Twenty-two percent more, actually. Your subject line should essentially tell your employees, "If you don't open this email, and open it soon, you're going to miss out on something big." 

Example: New benefits are waiting for you...enroll now!

What about the length of the subject line, you ask? The marketing community is pretty undecided on the issue. Some experts argue for no more than 50 characters, while others say the sweet spot falls between 61 and 70. But as long as you're doing the things mentioned above (and not turning your subject lines into novels), feel free to play around with length.

2. Use plenty of white space.

Once you've done the admirable work of getting employees to bite on your email, you've got to feed them some substance - but their appetite is limited.

Shrinking attention spans have made "less is more" the supreme credo of email communication. It's not as much about presenting less information, as it is about presenting it in smaller, more consumable doses. That's where white space can help.

White space, also known as "negative space," is the area between various elements in your email (paragraphs, images, etc.) that’s left blank. Ample white space allows your employees' brains to interpret, scan and break down the content into easy-to-read pieces.

It can be tempting to fill up all of your valuable space with information, but the clutter can really turn employees off - especially if they’re reading your email on a mobile device. Rather than throw everything at employees in huge blocks of text, try to limit your paragraphs to one or two brief sentences apiece, and use bullet points to highlight important details.


Hi <insert first name>,

It's time to enroll in your benefits!

This year, <insert company name> is pleased to offer you several new ways to help you protect your health and wealth, including:

  • <insert benefit offering>
  • <insert benefit offering>
  • <insert benefit offering>

You must complete your elections by <insert date>, so <insert call to action> (see next tip)

3. Have one clear call to action.

Ultimately, the point of your email is to get employees to do something, right? So, and this may sound obvious, you have to tell them exactly what you want them to do!

Wrap up your message with a call to action that answers the "Now what?" for employees and gives them an easy way to respond to the information in the email.

Here are a few call-to-action best practices:

  • Keep it clear and concise. Distill the action down to its essentials. Any more than five words is too long.
  • Encourage an immediate response. Just like with your subject line, a sense of urgency will drive action.
  • Just ask for one thing. Multiple calls to action can muddle your message and confuse employees.
  • Use a hyperlink. Navigate your employees directly from the call to action to your benefits site, where they can complete the action.
  • Make it stand out. The call to action needs to be visible enough that it’s the first or second thing employees notice. Using a clickable button instead of just a text link can increase engagement by nearly 30 percent.


(continuing from previous tip) You must complete your elections by <insert date>, so enroll today!

<hyperlinked button>: Get started


Benefits may not be the most exciting thing your employees receive emails about, but with a little marketing know-how, you can create messages that they'll actually read and - most importantly - act on.

For more resources to help you manage your open enrollment communications, download our OE Power Pack here!