Launches start-up this week
After three years of working around the clock, entrepreneur and master’s student Christian Braathen is set to launch the shift planner arbeidsplanen.no this week. He is already in talks with some major companies.
Christian Braathen, master’s student at NHH, had worked as a shift worker for nine years, as a waiter and security guard, when the idea came to him.
‘I observed how much time managers spent making shift plans, and that many employees were unhappy with their assigned shifts. That’s when I got the idea to make an automated rota system that takes employees’ requests for shifts into account,’ says Braathen.
The smart one in the family
- See Braathen’s website arbeidsplanen.no, where customers can sign in to have rotas made
Preparing work schedules is a challenging and very time-consuming task for managers.
‘There are around 600,000 shift workers in Norway. Some of them work in companies with demanding staffing needs, and that's where we come in,’ says Braathen.
Automated programs for preparing rotas already exist, but Braathen’s idea has a unique element to it. He has developed a system that automatically generates rotas based on the employees’ requests. His system is called Mycroft, named after Sherlock Holmes’ brother.
‘Mycroft is the smart one in the family, the one finding solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. That’s what this system does for rota planning.’
In the middle of his master’s studies, he has also applied for a place on NHH’s PhD programme – and has been accepted. He begins the programme in autumn 2019.
Braathen is convinced that if companies introduce rotas based on the employees’ preferences, it will have a positive effect on health and safety and improve employees’ performance.
‘To ensure that the rotas promote HSE, we ask the employees certain simple questions about how they like to work, when they would like shifts, who they want to work with and twenty or so other questions. After they have entered this information in the program, the system distributes the shifts in a manner that complies with laws and regulations.’
This way, Mycroft reduces staffing costs, overtime and sickness absence.
‘This helps to increase turnover, because happier employees make for happier customers.’
Braathen does not appear to apply any HSE principles to his own life. For a long period in the spring semester, he only slept a handful of hours a day. There has been a lot of hard work, but it is starting to pay off.
He has met with a number of players in business and industry. The two biggest have between 10,000 and 15,000 employees.
Braathen has some very busy years behind him, with his master’s thesis, which will be submitted this spring, developing his program and pitching his product in competitions. He has met with a number of players in business and industry. The two biggest have between 10,000 and 15,000 employees.
‘I really enjoy setting myself goals that I’m unable to reach at present, so that I can push myself to work hard,’ says Braathen.
His supervisor Associate Professor Mario Guajardo was a good help when he wrote his master’s thesis. The collaboration went so well that Braathen will be giving a guest lecture in the course Algorithms and computer programming with Python, where he will include some material from his thesis.
‘Christian's knowledge and expertise in mathematics and computer programming can be useful in several areas, and not just in relation to shift planning. I’m in charge of a project for TINE, where we are looking at ways to improve various work operations in Norwegian agriculture. Christian is now part of these studies,’ says Guajardo, researcher at the Department of Business and Management Science.
Proud of the entrepreneur
Braathen has already attracted plenty of attention. Earlier this year, he won NOK 50,000 in a competition organised by Gründerhub. He has also received funding from Edgar J Johannessen's fund at NHH.
He has now qualified for Gründerhub's national final, where contestants can win NOK 250,000. The final will be held during Nordic Edge Expo at the end of September. He has also received funding from Innovation Norway.
Braathen believes NHH’s persistent focus on innovation and entrepreneurship deserves recognition, and he is especially grateful to the Vice Rector for Innovation and Development, Therese E Sverdrup.
She returns the praise:
‘We are proud that NHH students are increasingly starting up their own businesses and contributing to business innovations, and Christian Braathen is an excellent example of a student breaking fresh ground in entrepreneurship. He is also a very capable student who has been accepted to our PHD programme. Christian was one of my students in the bachelor’s programme, and he stood out as an especially inquisitive student with an aptitude for critical thinking. It has been interesting to watch him develop his project, and I hope Mycroft will be a success,’ says Sverdrup.