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Harnessing generation Y

Cynics might see Second Life as just an opportunity for cross-dressing in cyberspace. But the parallel world of which it is both exemplar and metaphor is being harnessed by serious businesses.

At a recent Computer Weekly 500 Club meeting, the chief information officer of a multinational company identified managing the Web 2.0 generation as one of the most pressing issues for senior executives.

She gave an example from her own experience of an intern whose first line of attack when tasked with a research problem was to broadcast the bare bones of it to her digital networks on Facebook and elsewhere. The CIO held this up as evidence that the Web 2.0 generation is more innately co-operative and more instinctively boundaryless that any of its forebears.

However true that may be, there are clearly changes afoot in how this generation is recruited and managed. We report in this issue how a recruitment firm hosted a jobs fair on Second Life to draw in talent from "generation Y" on behalf of Royal Bank of Scotland, Yell UK and KPMG.

These firms believe they can tap into a global talent pool by using the virtual world of Second Life. Moreover, they seem to believe - reasonably - that highly web-savvy, innovative and entrepreneurial candidates will emerge from this process, where job-seeking avatar meets recruitment avatar - with no danger of a clammy handshake.

The application of the phrase "out of the box thinking" to this recruitment strategy must surely be a temptation. And, to be fair, people who have been deeply immersed in Second Life will have gained technical and creative digital expertise that could be parlayed by real business.

Meanwhile, university students doing the traditional "milk round" for entry into banking, law, or strategy consulting are busy eradicating embarrassing photographs from their MySpace and Facebook pages. A sign that work life and social life are, after all, separate realms.


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