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Baker Tilly facilitates Equity Residential’s journey to Oracle Digital Assistant

As an Oracle partner, Baker Tilly regularly helps organizations make their transition to the cloud. We recently assisted Equity Residential – a real estate investment trust with approximately 300 buildings nationwide – with their move to Oracle. More specifically, we partnered with Equity to facilitate their implementation of the Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA).

Courtney Mecikalski, a consulting manager for Baker Tilly Digital, recently co-hosted a webinar with Rosie Stroh and Mark Johnson of Equity Residential to discuss some of the key aspects of Equity’s implementation of the ODA.

The Equity team began the project with plenty of Oracle familiarity, as they previously transitioned to Oracle HCM Cloud in 2016, to Oracle Recruiting Cloud in May 2020, and also were using Oracle Integration Cloud and Oracle Analytics Cloud.

Planning and implementation

Equity faced a relatively simple choice in deciding to deploy the ODA. The idea of being able to communicate with job seekers while allowing the recruiting team to focus on ‘value add’ activities was very attractive.

From Equity’s perspective, ODA creates a clear, interactive experience. It allows candidates to engage with their career site, to receive answers to key questions in areas like benefits or employee programs and to find out how they are progressing during the hiring process.

A naturally collaborative company, Equity made sure to include employees across a variety of teams throughout its organization as part of the planning and transition process. Team members from recruiting and HR were included, of course, but the ODA project team also featured representatives across talent development, diversity and inclusion, and IT.

Equity included a broad cross-section of team members not simply for the internal perspective, but also to view the user experience from the perspective of a candidate across a variety of different types of roles.  

As a part of the initiative, Baker Tilly and Equity Residential made it a collective priority to take a step back and examine what a candidate is looking for while interacting with the career site. From a recruiting perspective, what topics are candidates interested in learning about? What topics are they asking the recruiting team? What topics come up occasionally, and which ones come up repeatedly?

As the team considered the answers to these questions, the focus for the digital assistant began to center around the following perspective:

What questions are candidates interested in asking, and how do we want to answer those questions?

In other words, candidates wanted to know about benefits, trainings and internships, among other topics. In turn, Equity made sure that it had the adaptive intelligence to respond to specific questions within those categories. The key was, perhaps, weighing the balance between simple answers and granular responses. (It’s not easy to decipher via electronic communication whether a candidate wants some info or a lot of info.) But it was clear to Equity and Baker Tilly that the first step in guiding candidates to the proper answers was developing a full understanding of the proper questions.

Digital assistant design

As part of the digital assistant design process, Equity and Baker Tilly considered a long list of issues and topics that candidates were interested in learning more about. With additional research, the team was able to narrow the list to what candidates really want to know about, based on the questions they continually ask recruiters.

In the end, Equity settled on four primary intents:

  • Check application status: Candidates want to know how they are doing in the hiring process.
  • Search for job: They also want assistance looking for the right job within the organization across locations or different job families.
  • Sign up for talent network/community: Even if a candidate can’t find the right job to apply to when initially searching, they can provide their basic preference information to keep informed as other opportunities arise.
  • Learn about EQR: Candidates are interested in learning more about Equity’s culture, benefits, internships, etc.

Narrowing the intents was not an easy process. Creating keywords that lead people to specific pages on Equity’s career site – and the correct pages, at that – was a time-intensive process. The organization had to make sure it was prepared for all the different ways that job seekers could ask questions – including various phrasings and use of synonyms – and that each of those ways would guide candidates to the right answers (or at least the best possible answers).

After all, the ODA was not being viewed as a simple Q&A repository. It was meant to be more of an interactive experience, and the ability of the digital assistant to understand the user’s request was a critical component.

The outcomes: How did it go?

When Equity went live with the digital assistant earlier this year, it was very successful. The team judged success based on the four primary intents noted above. They closely monitored the conversations between the job seekers and the digital assistant. They checked for obvious and non-obvious gaps in the Q&A process. Ultimately, the team was proud to say that very few issues arose.

While the digital assistant was never intended to be a replacement for the career site or live interactions with the recruiting team, it has added a new element of self-service that some candidates prefer. In its intended role as a complement to the recruiting team, it has been a big success and has helped to reduce questions coming in to recruiters.

Next steps

Moving forward, the Equity team will continue to monitor conversations between job seekers and the digital assistant, although not nearly as frequently. Every conversation is recorded, and for several weeks, Equity reviewed every detail of dialogue to look for gaps, improvement areas, etc. At this point, they are now reviewing conversations about once a month to examine any lingering issues or common themes that arise.

Of course, while implementing the digital assistant for the external candidate experience was a logical first step for Equity, another goal was to also use the ODA internally to support employees. The next step in Equity’s digital assistant journey will be to focus on addressing employees’ questions about time and labor, PTO, pay slips and other issues that come up often in through emails to HR, IT and other internal teams.

Equity Residential, like Baker Tilly, has always prided itself on being proactive with technology, and the use of the digital assistant – both externally and, in due time, internally – is another example of proactively using technology to better support their business.

Customer Connect members can watch the full presentation here.

To learn more about how your organization can get started with Oracle Digital Assistant, contact our team today.

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