Ravi Kumar on hiring for potential and the value of the earn-and-learn model

Innovators share ideas with WorkingNation Overheard at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021

With the world of work changing so quickly, Infosys is focused on helping clients around the world keep up with digital transformation. President Ravi Kumar says the workforce should be given opportunities for lifelong learning, noting that it’s no longer the case that people spend their first 20 to 25 years getting education and then settle into work histories.

WorkingNation sat down with Kumar at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.

Infosys itself is committed to significant hiring, including in the U.S., and Kumar says the company is focusing on “hiring for potential.”

“We look for something called learnability, the ability for you to adapt to new learning and the ability to be a learner in a specific set of skills,” explains Kumar. “We use AI tools to test for learnability, then create models which will allow you to get people who could do this in the future and hire them. We hire people who have been in low potential jobs, but who have the potential to go to high potential jobs.”

In 2017, Infosys set a goal of creating 10,000 jobs which Kumar says the company met last year. They set a new goal of an additional 15,000 positions with 13,000 of those jobs already filled. “Our endeavor is to create this talent pool. We go to schools and colleges. We are one of the largest recruiters from schools. We built a corporate training infrastructure so that we could actually get people from schools and transition them to jobs.”

For example, Infosys has created training programs in which employees get 60 credits from a community college and can finish their undergraduate degree while working for the company.

Kumar adds that a worker who has been in the same low potential job for many years can also find a pathway to a new career. “We’ve done a mid-career shift program with Merit America. We get people who’ve been stuck at, say, retail check-in counters for the last 20 or 25 years. We start with an apprenticeship and then we take them through the process as they go forward. The idea is you create these learn, earn, and work templates and create upward social mobility in jobs, which is the need of the hour.”

Kumar calls the earn-and-learn model “a hidden jewel of talent.”

“It’s an economically viable model to create jobs of the future. And it’s a scalable model because there are so many large numbers of people who are available, who are looking for opportunities. That’s why we believe this is a very unique opportunity for companies, like Infosys, who want to hire in large numbers to look at this ultimate pool of talent.”

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