If you put your passions first and focus on doing good work, a rewarding career will follow. This was the advice Robin Bryden was given by his mentor when he first joined Shell as a health and safety contractor. It stuck with him.

Now, 18 years later, he’s still following that mantra by helping Shell protect its most important asset: its people.

Robin Bryden at his desk at Shell
Robin Bryden has developed a meaningful career at Shell by putting his passions first.

Inspiring hearts and minds

Today, Robin is responsible for enabling safe behaviours and practices in people across Shell. This means not just making sure people operate safely, but that they think safely, too. This unlocks their potential and inspires people to do the right thing because they want to, not just because they are told to.

With a PhD in Industrial Psychology co-sponsored by Shell from the University of Aberdeen, Robin has a good understanding of how to inspire others to think about operational and process safety. The first step, he says, is to let staff know that their thoughts and feelings on safety are heard.

“People that feel listened to – that feel cared for – perform better. They’re happier, they’re healthier, and best of all, they’re safer,” says Robin. 

To facilitate this, he and his team of leading academics and Shell staff developed the Hearts and Minds approach. This incorporates a toolkit of materials including brochures and pamphlets that provide staff with safety knowledge and information about how they can get their colleagues involved in safety on a day-to-day basis. 

“An example is providing frontline supervisors with material they can use to spark a conversation around a potentially hazardous topic. Then we can provide them with specific training around that subject,” he says, adding that it’s crucial the tools not only improve safety, but are valuable for the people using them.  

“In training, you can’t ask people to do something different. You ask them to do their job, and ask them how they can do it better,” Robin says. The result is that people get better results at work, and make it home to their families every night unharmed.

Making a difference every day

Robin explains that getting people to think and act safely isn’t always an easy task. “It needs consistent monitoring and support, and an innovative approach,” he says. This means he continues to be challenged in his career, but the end experience is always an incredibly rewarding one. 

Before his current role he spent seven years at Sakhalin-2, a gas project on a remote island in Russia. Faced with extreme weather conditions, the project had a number of safety concerns. As the Safety Manager, Robin was tasked with improving them. 

By the time he left Russia, Sakhalin-2 had completely turned around its safety record. It became one of the best performing gas projects in the industry, with an industry-leading road safety programme and performance. Robin says that instilling safety can be a challenge, like at Sakhalin, but ultimately he finishes each day knowing he’s made a difference. 

Like his passion to focus on doing good work, this has been one of the guiding principles throughout his career. “I’ve always had roles I’ve enjoyed, where I’ve liked the people, and where I’ve really made a difference,” he says.

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