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Survey reveals work from home sentiment amid covid-19

Ravi Kumar, Infosys President, joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the shift in attitude to remote work caused by COVID-19.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, there's no question many of us have had to adapt to a new type of workplace over the pandemic. A new study out from Infosys, though, says that shift to a distributed workforce is just the beginning, and that could widen the digital divide we've already seen. Let's bring in Ravi Kumar. He's the president of Infosys. And Ravi, we should point out you conducted this study alongside the Milken Institute. A lot of the themes the study hits on you have been highlighting over the last year. But I wonder if there's one headline that really stood out to you, especially in the impact of tech in the workforce.

RAVI KUMAR: Thank you, Akiko, for hosting me again. Absolutely. You know, I have spoken a little bit about it on your show last year, and then we institutionalized this specific survey. We did with 1,000 exhibitors, along with the Milken Institute. And we wanted to validate our hypothesis.

The one big headline I would say which kind of stuck to me is we are never going to go back to the past. We are not going to live in the present. We are going to draw from the physical past, we are going to draw from the virtual present, and we are going to build a hybrid model, which will be more productive than before. The question is, can we make it more inclusive, can we make it more diverse.

The survey by itself [INAUDIBLE] a very interesting stat. It actually said that people who were earning less than $50,000 had lesser number of remote working opportunities in comparison to people who were earning more than $75,000. And it's our opportunity now to calibrate that hybrid model in a way that, across industries, we could make it very diverse.

Remember, it's going to be hybrid, which essentially means work is going to be very democratized. It's going to be very dispersed. It will get to rural parts of America. It will go away from rich urban settings. So we have this unique opportunity to leverage this democratization of work in our benefit, and make it much more exclusive-- much more inclusive and much more diverse. And when we do so, we have this opportunity to make it equitable, because we are going to give access to work for people who did not have access before. So--

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Ravi, there seems to be a good-- sort of a positive and a negative in all of this. On the one hand, you've talked about democratizing the workforce. Now that things don't have to be in a particular region, more and more employees can be brought into the fold, especially as it relates to tech jobs. But you also just highlighted that tech divide that's already exist. So how do you bring those workers who have been especially left behind during the pandemic into the fold if they're already behind when you talk about the tech gap, the skills gap?

RAVI KUMAR: Absolutely, Akiko. This is across industries. You're spot on. You know, what's certain is there was a digital transformation across industries. The health crisis just accelerated it. And what would certainly happen is the skills and the life of skills is going to shrink because digital transformation is going to get accelerated not just now, but in the future. When that happens, you're going to find more gig workers because work is going to get very modular.

And as skills get shortened, you have a chance to bridge the divide between skills and degrees. Today, the access to jobs for people who have degrees is much higher than the access to jobs for people who have skills. That line will blur. And that line will blur because the skills-- the life of skills is very short. The order of workplaces and workforce was set by the Industrial Revolution, and evolved from there. This is a time for us to disrupt it, and this is a time for us to define the future we want to actually build.

ZACK GUZMAN: And, Ravi, I mean, you guys at Infosys kind of help people in that digital transformation, So I suspect that you're-- you would be encouraged to see the findings from your survey that the people in general are pretty pleased, but there are those people out there who are not pleased. And in that survey, you kind of saw a piece of it.

Some people here, 70% are reporting that they have to check in on their workers a bit more frequently. I mean, we've been talking about burnout in this new work from home environment, where people never feel like you're leaving the office because you never go into the office. How important is that when you look at the transformation in working from home as it drags on now into 2021?

RAVI KUMAR: Very important. That's a great question, actually. You know, nowhere we are saying that we are going to go away to a virtual-virtual world. We're saying we're going to go to a hybrid world, where we're going to draw from the best of the physical and virtual worlds. What will certainly happen in the future is four or five things will become very important for enterprises-- reskilling and training on a regular basis, because skills are going to be short-lived, so enterprises are going to invest on reskilling.

Second, you're going to find a level of trust which has to be built between employers and employees because you want to actually give them work away from physical workspaces. Networked structures will play a very important role, and closely-knit teams will benefit our [INAUDIBLE] because you will draw social capital from the close-knitting of teams, because we will draw that social capital when we are actually working virtually, and go back to physical spaces when we want to actually build social capital. So all of these attributes will become much more important in workplaces than ever before.

AKIKO FUJITA: To what extent have you seen companies invest in the reskilling, though? We've spoken to a number of outside firms that have really sort of doubled down on those services, but is there a realization, especially among the big companies, about the urgency to do that?

RAVI KUMAR: I think most of them, in fact, the survey actually says that skills training has become very, very important in every industry and every enterprise. Infosys, per se, is setting up a corporate training university in Indianapolis. It's going to be up and running this year. We've been on the journey for a long time. We believe that hiring for skills and not for degrees is going to be very critical. In fact, we've started to do so.

We land people on digital backbone jobs. I've spoken about it on this program last year, and we've progressed on it. And then we progressively take them on a digital apprenticeship to hold jobs and give them the same equal [INAUDIBLE] opportunities which we actually have for people who have degrees.

And remember, in the last 20 years, education, higher secondary education in the United States has gone up by 150%. And that has actually contributed to the divide. And we do believe that this is an inflection point to bridge the divide because the life of skills is so short that undergrad degrees really don't matter. What really matters is do you have the skills.

I think consortiums of academic institutions and enterprises is going to play a role. And at Infosys, we partnered with the Arizona State University, and we started to build the bridges in the last few months. And that will happen in every industry, Akiko. And I think it's real.

And we're all going to go into an era where we are no longer going to study for-- educate for the first 20 to 30 years of our lives, work all the next 50 years of our life. We are going to get into an era where we are on an intertwined education and work all our lives. We will do multiple professions. We will go to multiple jobs. And gig work in corporate world is going to be real, as well. So that's going to also give us this huge-- a huge [INAUDIBLE] to multiple jobs and multiple professions. So it's--

AKIKO FUJITA: Yes.

RAVI KUMAR: --real. Education and work are going to be intertwined.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, I mean, it's been fascinating to see how quickly things have shifted, not just in the workplace, but also in higher education, to your point. Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys, good to have you on today.