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Gold Stevie Award Winner 2019, Click to Enter The 2020 Stevie Awards for Great Employers

Company: Advisor Group, Phoenix, AZ USA

Nomination Category: Internal Communications Professional of the Year


Nomination Title: Patrick Brennan, Vice President, Internal & Organizational Communication


Individual Essay

Advisor Group is one of the largest networks in the U.S. of independent financial advisors, overseeing $268 billion+ in client assets. The company’s 1,000+ employees in 5 states serve 7,000+ customers in a fast-paced, dynamic industry. The past 18 months have been a time of growth and vitality: the business added 2,000 more customers (+35%), launched multiple new services, integrated 3 major acquisitions, and addressed significant new regulatory requirements.

Patrick Brennan, Vice President, Internal & Organizational Communication, has created and executed a strategy that makes the company culture, its strategic initiatives, and its core financial metrics visible and actionable to all employees, in real and meaningful ways. This has resulted in positive momentum that is reflected in business results and double-digit improvements in employee engagement survey scores. His influence touches every part of the business.

Since establishing the Internal Communications function in 2017, Patrick worked diligently in 2018 to:

-Institutionalize professional internal communications practices at this rapidly growing company;
-Facilitate employee communications protocols for the CEO and his executive staff, for frontline managers, and all support functions – particularly Human Resources, Operations and Technology.
-Develop & execute internal communication plans for significant company events, including three acquisitions, three major office moves, several leadership meetings and several executive staff hires.

Patrick has delivered on direct communication-related projects that drive employee engagement, such as:

-Employee Photo Contests at 4 sites to enhance the office environment and engage employees;
-An all-business “Photo Day” project wherein 650+ employees received new professional headshots;
-Special events such as “Intranet Awareness Week,” and “Company Standup Day” (anniversary of founding)
-A comprehensive five-state Community Service volunteerism framework for the business.

Of special note, for the Spring 2019 Employee Engagement Survey, Patrick created and executed a colorful, creative and fun multi-week climate-setting communication plan that ultimately resulted in a 90% participation rate (see attachments).

When the survey results were tabulated, they revealed double-digit improvements over 2017 results, with overall engagement and work environment improving by 19% each. This is a strong testament to employee understanding and buy-in formed by frequent, timely and relevant internal communications that addressed the “what’s in it for me?” question, and provided real and understandable examples of business strategy progress.

On a 1:1 level, Patrick shares his considerable communications experience and expertise freely with executives, managers, employees, line managers, and his HR colleagues. He maintains objectivity and focuses on understanding the purpose of a message, how it connects to the business strategy, and how to make it most effective. His direct manager, Chief Human Resources Officer Andrea Larsen, put it this way:

“Patrick demonstrates creativity, influence and shaping of messaging across senior leaders, employee groups, and his HR peers. He sees a need and jumps right in with ideas for both messaging and delivery. Patrick prides himself on good customer service. He annually taps into employees for constructive feedback and makes modifications accordingly.”

“On multiple occasions, and in particular during acquisition transitions, Patrick is the voice of reason with cross functional teams. He challenges thinking, helps frame up messaging from the outside in, prompts messaging where others forget it, or feel it isn’t important, and assists with communication development, delivery and methodology. Finally, Patrick has an amazing work ethic. He is always “on” and acts with an extreme sense of urgency.”

“Patrick can be counted on to deliver results. He is sensitive to his audience and is a constant reminder to us all about how important proactive communication is. He is always available for his customers, helps them when they are struggling, or empowers them when they want messages written and delivered in a certain way. He has a reputation for taking something that is average and making it spectacular.”

Individual Summary

1) Provided steady drumbeat of culture-related examples: 40+ culture/engagement stories monthly, with photos and/or video links…kept culture initiatives visible, built positive and fun momentum.

2) Developed “My Career Story” Video campaign, with 23 internally produced employee testimonial brief “why I work here” videos…dual outcome of aiding internal engagement and external recruiting.

3) Designed Employee Voice Survey participation campaign, with six-week climate-setting series ahead of survey date, featuring NCAA-themed summary videos of past actions, leader encouragements, and site/function contests…drove awareness, participation to record 90%, and gave leaders strong actionable data.

4) Customized Manager “Communication Framework” tools developed and presented to over 70% of manager…to help cascade and reinforce business strategy in their own team meetings…managers rated it 4/7/5.0).

5) Developed People-focused Framework for CEO All Hands Agenda meetings…. Employee Photo Collage cover slide, brisk & brief reports like a TV show, ample time (30+ minutes) for Q&A…leadership visibility.