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Reskilling the workforce amid the labor shortage

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  • INFY

Yahoo Finance’s Andy Serwer is joined by Ravi Kumar, Infosys President at the Milken 2021 Conference to discuss reskilling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: I'm here with Ravi Kumar who is the president of Infosys. Ravi, nice to see you.

RAVI KUMAR: Thank you Andy, thank you for hosting me out here today.

ANDY SERWER: So, for those of us who aren't familiar with Infosys, why don't you tell us a little bit about what the company does and in particular your business here in the United States.

RAVI KUMAR: Sure. Infosys is a 260,000 plus employee organization, it focuses on digital services and partners with large enterprises for the transformational journeys, especially at a time where everything is technology led, every enterprise, every business is technology led. I think we are in a very exciting time to partner with large enterprises.

ANDY SERWER: And your business in the US.

RAVI KUMAR: So, our business in the US, it's a principal market for us. 60 plus percent of our revenues globally comes from the United States and we are in an exciting journey of localizing our workforce and building capabilities from schools and colleges in the US.

ANDY SERWER: You talked, Ravi, about the great reshuffling. There are a lot of terms for what's going on now with the workforce in terms of the great resignation, you said a great reshuffling. What does that mean and how are businesses changing the way they're seeing their labor force and how can they better manage that?

RAVI KUMAR: Andy, this is a great reset, needless to say, it's a great reset for every business, every industry but it's a phenomenal opportunity for enterprises on human capital. On one side you could see it as an unprecedented crisis, on the other side you could see this as an opportunity.

What I meant by a great reshuffle is a large number of people are leaving organizations, just in the United States in the month of September, 4 and 1/2 million people left jobs and some industries, this is 6% to 7% of the workforce while at an average it is 4% of the workforce.

Equally I call it a hybrid paradox, 70% of the people are wanting to be having human connections and 70% of the people are actually saying they want to have more flexibility.

So the great reshuffle in some sense is all about finding new purpose, finding new priorities for employees to actually connect to employers who fall into the same purpose they actually are looking forward to.

It's indeed a time when I believe that work, workplaces, and workforce, which were all kind of entangled, are getting disentangled. Work is becoming very hybrid and to a large extent workforce is now saying, in fact, 50% of Americans are now saying they want to be freelancers, they really want to work on their own. So it's a confluence of forces which is kind of defining what this reshuffle is.

ANDY SERWER: I mean, there's a lot to go through there with what you just said. Now, first of all, 70% of the workforce wants flexibility, 70% wants connection. So they seem to want to have it all, right?

RAVI KUMAR: Yeah, absolutely. And, in fact, that's 70% which is wanting flexibility is no longer talking about where to work and when to work, they're actually talking about why I need to work, what's the reason I go to a workplace? What is my priorities? What is my purpose? And then they're defining whether they want to do a job or not. And that's, I think, the flexibility is a much broader spectrum than how we saw as employers before.

ANDY SERWER: And what about all these gig workers, people who want to be gig workers on the one hand, that's fine maybe, then on the other hand, companies want them to be gig workers and then there's all kinds of issues with insurance, child care, retirement accounts and benefits and those kinds of things, right?

RAVI KUMAR: Yeah, absolutely. And gig work so far has actually been in the ride sharing economy, it's really not been in America corporate world. Gig jobs have come into existence because work has become very modular, thanks to digital technologies, and as digital technologies get embraced at work, work is going to be in much smaller modular packets and it's going to be decoupled from workplaces.

And therefore there is a potential opportunity for gig workers to be a part of the corporate workforce. Interestingly, in the United States only 60% of the eligible population actually goes to work. So the labor force participation is only 60%, that can go up. However, there are structural changes needed in our ecosystems, what you spoke about.

Which is what happens to child care, what happens to health benefits, what happens to retirement benefits, all of that has to be worked out. It has to be worked out for gig become very mainstream as a part of a larger enterprise ecosystems.

ANDY SERWER: We have seen this tremendous trend over the past 10, 20 years in America, of outsourcing jobs overseas but now with supply chain issues, is that all coming into question? Are we going to see outsourcing of jobs leaving America lessen or even turn around?

RAVI KUMAR: You know what, Andy? There are two or three things I wanted to highlight here. One is there are 11 million open positions in the US, these are jobs of the future, there are only eight million people available for jobs. So, America has to focus on reskilling infrastructure so that we build this fetus from within, and we only look for expertise when we go out of the country but we build fetus from within.

The second important point is technology jobs today are core to every business. And if technology is so core to every business, you almost want to start to reevaluate whether you want to outsource it or insource it. Do you want to build that capability internally because no longer it is a non-core capability, it's a core capability you want to build for yourself.

So, companies like Infosys want to partner with enterprises to reskill their workforce so that they have self-sustained capabilities, human capabilities in an era where every business is going to be a software business, every business is going to be a technology business. Software is the new alchemy for every industry.

ANDY SERWER: You talked, Ravi, about how education and work are now intertwined in a different way from previous generations. Explain what that means.

RAVI KUMAR: You know what, Andy? That's a great question actually. All of what we do in workplaces has been defined as a template from the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution actually created this template where for the first 20 to 25 years, you educate, and the next 70 years of 50 to 70 years you actually work, that was a time when we did just in case learning.

What I mean by just in case learning is you learn for the first 20 plus years, just in case something is needed for the next 50 years of your work, you draw from it. With skills being so short lived and work being so modular, you have to actually mix up work and education together so that you build this reskilling templates, you build lifelong learning templates and you learn continuously at a workplace because skills are so short lived. I call it the half life of skills has gone down.

Because skills are so short lived, you need to be a lifelong learner and that's why this traditional template set by the industrial revolution doesn't hold anymore. In the digital era where everything is changing, you need to intertwine that education and work. And it's a phenomenal opportunity, again, to create diversity and inclusivity because education is a good leveler for jobs.

ANDY SERWER: All right, we're going to have to leave at that. Ravi Kumar, a lot of food for thought. President of Infosys, thanks so much for joining us.