The friendly face at the supermarket checkout, the sales staff at the deli counter, the drivers and warehouse staff in logistics. These employees – known as frontline workers – help create a positive shopping experience for us, every day. And they make up the majority of the workforce in grocery stores.
MPREIS is a family-owned supermarket chain based in Tyrol. With over 300 stores in Austria and Italy, it employs more than 6,000 people.
Known for its family atmosphere, MPREIS was keen to create a communication platform with the potential to reach all employees, regardless of location. Using Microsoft solutions, it has expanded digital communication channels between company and staff, promoting an interconnected company culture.
Employee app as the key to communication
The challenge was that most of the target group did not have a work device, be it a smartphone or PC, making the flow of information in MPREIS stores dependent on the management of individual stores. This limited direct interaction between employees, as well as between company and employees. While information from head office was shared via the company intranet, limited intranet access in the stores meant that broad distribution of relevant news was largely reserved for management. As Natalie Seidel, Head of Communications, PR and Customer Service at MPREIS, describes: “Communication was rather one-sided, making dialogue between employees and the company more difficult.”
This led to the idea of an employee app to keep employees well-informed and up-to-date, as well as motivated and efficient.
Strong IT partner as a factor for success
Microsoft partner Communardo Software GmbH provided initial support in 2020 to develop the app’s usage scenarios, as well as providing technical consulting on the possibilities of Microsoft 365.
The goal was to establish the technical foundation for the app and realize usage scenarios that had been identified in employee workshops. “The use-case shopping method was used to gather the requirements of frontline workers at MPREIS, which then served as our basis for prioritizing the usage cases within the app,” explains Jan-Mathis Schnurr, Project Manager and Business Consultant at Communardo, about the implementation.
Technical implementation of the app in conjunction with the MPREIS in-house IT department and numerous store tests followed. Although there was initial uncertainty about employee acceptance, when the MIA app went live in early 2022, the number of active users hit 50 percent within the first few weeks, then 65 percent a short time later. Currently, more than 76 percent of all MPREIS employees in Austria are active MIA app users.
“This is a clear confirmation that digitalizing internal communications was the right decision and that it will become even more important in the future,” says Natalie Seidel. “The app makes internal interactions easier, more transparent, and livelier. Administration, stores, warehouse/logistics, and production now have access to the same content. Employees can find information more quickly with a simple way to provide feedback or suggestions.”
Digitalization of communication channels now enables MPREIS employees to communicate with each other via e-mail, instant messaging, and video conferencing, saving significant time and money. Microsoft 365 was used to introduce a freely accessible digital channel, through which MPREIS headquarters can now reach all 6,000 employees, in particular frontline workers, directly and quickly, allowing for cross-site interaction at the same time.
MIA – The personalized app with its own personality
MIA is not only the name of the app, but also a specially designed avatar that posts in the app, announces prize draws, and even has her own e-mail address. She shares relevant information and can answer questions. Employees can then decide for themselves when they receive information and enter into dialogue with the company.
And while the app is pre-installed on MPREIS devices, one of the biggest advantages is that it can be used on personal smartphones. Employees who choose to download it can receive company news via their own news feed in the MIA app. Rosters and personal payslips are also easily accessed in the app, anytime and anywhere.
The app also offers a digital employee card with discounts on purchases at MPREIS stores, as well as access to a portal with employee discounts at other companies and providers. Small tokens of appreciation such as vouchers for a doughnut at carnival time and the chance to enter prize draws are also appreciated.
Collaboration platform on your smartphone
The MIA app is based on Microsoft 365 and uses solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Yammer, SharePoint, and Power Platform for its various features.
Interaction via the chat function runs using Teams and employees also have access to editorially managed information such as important company news, vacation calendars, press area, internal jobs board, and other content using SharePoint Online.
Store managers have highlighted that barrier-free access to information and the option to contact head office colleagues are particularly advantageous. Power Platform makes rosters and payslips available, while Yammer facilitates internal company communities, such as for apprentices, or cycling fans. Employee feedback confirms how much this interaction is appreciated.
Connecting a hybrid workforce for the future
The MIA app has helped MPREIS implement a hybrid working model because employees no longer have to travel to the workplace to obtain the information they need, saving on costs, time, and resources. It also allows employees without an office workstation to stay digitally connected too, for example in production, logistics, or stores. This strengthens the feeling of togetherness and promotes a connected culture between employees and within the company.
Looking to the future, the company aims to keep increasing the percentage of active MIA app users as part of its goal for the future. “Right from the outset it was important to us that MPREIS employees could actively participate in the MIA app, using posts and comments to ensure there was life and activity on this forward-looking communication channel,” says David Mölk, MPREIS Managing Director.
Future in-app functions will offer MPREIS employees even more added value. Above all the company wants to stimulate and expand barrier-free and cross-site exchange of information within the app, fostering its communities further and increasing interaction using modern tools.