30,000 employees positively impacted by an improved Employee Experience

Co-creating an improved Employee Experience that will impact over 30,000 employees from the largest food retailer in Portugal? We are in for the job!


Sonae MC


Co-creating an improved Employee Experience


Concepts to improve the experience of the 34,000 employees

If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.

As Richard Branson said ‘Customers do not come first. Employees do come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers’. And Sonae MC knows it first hand. Sonae MC is the largest food retail market player in Portugal with over 34,000 employees and 1,200 supermarket stores. In order to provide the best services to their customers, Sonae MC’s Employer Brand team recognized the importance of providing a great Employee Experience beforehand. The amount of data already gathered from the HR team was extensive, however, Sonae MC was missing qualitative research to truly get to know their employees and uncover their real needs and motivations. What better way to improve the employee experience than to merge inputs from the CHRO teams with new infos gathered through the service design methodology? That’s where Koos came in.

Getting the full picture.

Before getting ahead of ourselves, we sat down with a group of diverse employees to construct 3 different Ecosystem Maps, reflecting not only the Stores but also the Headquarters and Logistics, in order to get the full picture of Sonae MC’s ecosystems and its dynamics. This way, it became clear for Sonae MC’s HR team where to focus first. And, in the future, to make sure to provide a consistent experience throughout the employee’s ecosystems, iterating upon them.

Deep diving in the world of the supermarket stores.

We’ve teamed up with Sonae MC’s HR team to find us a great and diverse group of employees to interview across different locations in Portugal, from north to south. It was important to have a pool of participants of different ages, job positions, and also geographical locations to be as representative of the diversity of Sonae MC as possible so that the mapping of the journey and the ideas generated would be inclusive and attend to the different needs across contexts.

The knowledge of the project team about the stores’ environment and the close bridge between them made this approach easier. This was a vital support, resulting in valuable insights and useful learnings.

Taking the time to listen.

As service designers, we always highlight how significant it is to devote time to empathize and deeply understand the user’s perspective, but it makes everything much easier and better when we have our client on board with us!

This time, it was no different and the Sonae team understood how impactful this was, even having a lot of previous data, and this truly showed in the rest of the project by having everyone on board and having true crusaders and believers in the sessions.

These are examples of what we recognized together:

  • Sonae MC team took part in the interviews, which helped them empathize more deeply by hearing the employees in person
  • By being fully engaged in the qualitative research and throughout the project, Sonae MC’s team was able to convince and gain sponsorship, from internal key deciders and enablers, about the project’s impact and value
  • The employees truly opened up during the conversation in a deep level that surprised the HR team by talking to Koos which represented an external neutral party, who was unbiased and impartial
  • The sensitizing booklet was fundamental to unlock the employee’s impressions and deeper thoughts and opinions when preparing for the interview

One day in the life of a retail store employee.

After the insights, it was possible to visualize our standing point through an employee journey. This made it clear where to focus on and which opportunities were screaming for innovation.

As the day of the employees are so diverse and different from each other, it was a challenge to aggregate in just one journey their singularities in a way that was transversal across different contexts and job positions. But there isn’t a big enough challenge for us, and with the help of Sonae MC’s team, a day at work was mapped in an employee journey.


Koos made sure to bring the employees’ perspective and Sonae MC team their view on the business strategy. Together, we finished the project by looking at the journey and understanding the most meaningful opportunities and most impactful ideas.

Now, Sonae MC’s Human Resources team is taking one step further into implementing solutions inspired by the idea concepts of the session. This means, one step further into providing an improved purposeful Employee Experience, that will contribute to a happier and more motivated Sonae MC store employee.

The brainpower behind this project

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