We recently caught up with RIVA Solutions’ CEO Naveen Krishnamurthy and its Executive Vice President of Growth, Farrell O’Neill Proffitt to discuss the evolution of the company’s culture and the impact of intentional culture, and they share advice for others wanting to follow a similar path.
Skip the Checklist
RIVA was built on the notion that a company people liked to work for, that was truly employee centric and focused on its people, could also be successful. While the word culture has since been more widely adopted, it is also largely undefined. RIVA knows first-hand, culture is not a checklist.
Naveen says other CEOs often reach out asking for a tool to help them develop a culture like what they see in RIVA. “It’s infused in our DNA and drives our behaviors as leaders. Culture isn’t static, it takes constant work to maintain. It’s about building genuine relationships and supporting employees in all kinds of little ways. It adds up – I make it a point to check in with employees and watch for patterns, you never know when someone might be struggling and how much a simple chat can improve their day.”
Naveen says culture can be challenging to define, challenging to measure return, but that it is efforts to humanize the corporation that lead to happy employees, happy customers, and long-term success.
Farrell says that building on consistency over 12 years has led to significant organic growth. RIVAKarma, RIVA’s award winning CSR program was established early in the company’s history. RIVAKarma allows employees to select charities the company supports, which leads to increased participation and passion for community service.
“It is no longer just us driving new programs. We had a recent Women in Leadership (WiL) program driven by a mix of women within the organization who developed a charter, pitched ideas, and hosted an inaugural event.”
She says what was established early on has become precedent, with employees understanding that the sky is the limit, that ideas they had at other firms that may not have had support, are now possible. In the end, employees build what they love and have a platform to showcase it to the world using RIVA’s brand to amplify their message.
RIVA leadership is focused on developing its next generation of leaders and providing visibility and opportunity that may be difficult to find at other organizations for young, aspiring managers and leaders. Coming from the top down, RIVA’s culture encourages everyone to think about the individuals on their teams – who they are, their personal lives, their future goals. Connection is not just about communication but about really being invested in each person’s career path and journey. That means understanding employee participation on committees, understanding possible flight risks, rising stars, and how teams are being built and coming together.
Naveen says leaders at all levels see focus and interest coming from the top, which helps them understand personal connections are valued, important, and worth their own time and attention.
Authentic Social Engagement
RIVA’s brand, including its social media strategy, is intentional. Farrell says a lot of thought is put into what is posted, by whom and when and where. “Everything we do is very deliberate, founded in cohesive messaging. We look at metrics and use all of the tools at our disposal. A great social media strategy requires a balance of thought leadership, community engagement, and a mix of the right channels to reach your desired audiences.”
Naveen is a very hands-on CEO, understanding the importance and value great marketing, blended with organic interactions and relationships, brings to RIVA. Preparing for their annual charity fundraiser, Staying Connected, Naveen sent hundreds of personal invitations via LinkedIn. Reaching the right people, in the right roles, in the right manner, is a challenge for many organizations. Organic, authentic outreach driven by people, not faceless company pages, is not something that is widely understood or successfully utilized. This practice is the center of RIVA’s engagement strategy.
Leveraging the power of authentic connections, RIVA’s marketing team cultivates social ambassadors across the organization, teaching them the necessary skills to take great pictures, share, engage, and create engaging content. “We are always looking for the next way to engage employees, to push ahead in what we are doing,” says Farrell. “LinkedIn is a key platform now for so many of us. It’s a great tool we should all be using to find that next partner or reconnect with someone we’ve lost touch with.”
Partnering Made Easier
Always on the hunt for great partner organizations to deliver innovative solutions, RIVA has a wide network of trusted partners, teams who deliver exceptional work and uphold core RIVA values. This network took time and a lot of vetting but consistently proves to be one of the best returns on investment RIVA has made as partners routinely contribute to new growth and opportunities.
Naveen says it is not a perfect science, that the notion of teaming is not about successfully bidding together but about delivering together and that takes validating companies, watching for trends in people leaving, and understanding the nuances that may be at play. “When you find a good mix and can work with a team successfully multiple times you create efficiencies that benefit the team and the customer.”
Advice for Starting
As is the case with anything, success doesn’t come without hard work. Successfully building and maintaining culture takes process and rigor, it takes heart and must come from a genuine place of empathy and caring for others. “You can’t teach heart,” says Farrell. “You need to hire people who have it and cultivate an environment they enjoy and provide the means for them to do and share the things they love.”
Naveen says he does not hire rockstars or mavericks. He would rather pass on people that may be prone to toxicity and heroics, preferring to maintain the chemistry and morale of the team. “Creating a strong social environment that balances a good income with empowerment and friendship goes a long way towards retention. No matter how long someone spends at RIVA they will always be a part of our network. The connections and friendships remain even after an employee chooses to take a different path and explore a new opportunity.”
About RIVA Solutions, Inc.
Results. Innovation. Values. Accountability. That’s RIVA, on a mission to power solutions for better government. RIVA Solutions Inc. is an IT-service provider for the Federal government experiencing explosive growth since our inception in 2009. We specialize in Digital Transformation of the public sector providing best in class solutions and products in Digital Platforms, Data & Analytics, Cloud & Infrastructure, Human Centered Design, Application Services, and Cybersecurity.