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What is TrenchHR?

“In the trenches.” It’s a phrase that comes from the Great War, yes in the First World War the trenches were the front lines, the most dangerous place for soldiers. Since, the term “in the trenches” has come to mean the area where there’s action. When someone is said to be in the trenches it means they are fighting with and alongside everyone else. There are no delegators or VPs in the trenches – just soldiers actively engaged in battle.

I’ve been using social media for three years now and when I got started there were already several HR professionals who had been using it for years. One of them was Charlie Judy (@HRFishbowl). He’s an excellent HR professional, Emcee with SHRM, and exceptional writer as well. I’m proud to say he’s a friend of mine. We collaborated on an article titled “The Audacity of HR” at the time it was my most viewed article ever.  I’m mentioning this because to my knowledge the very 1ST time I saw/read the term “TrenchHR” was from Charlie. It was even a popular hashtag at one point #TrenchHR.

TrenchHR was developed to distinguish the HR professionals working in the corporate world from those consulting. It’s to recognize those that were practicing HR from those who one step removed from working inside the machine, if you will. Surely, you’ve heard the old term “Those that can, do; those that can’t, consult.”

Some people think it’s a divisive term and it has ruffled some feathers. For instance, I am a HR consultant and very proud it. Most consultants are former HR practitioners and for one reason or another decided to make a living using their expertise, knowledge and skills independently. Some current practitioners feel that having the corporate tagline behind their name makes them more relevant. The topic is debatable; depending upon who you ask relevancy is not so much about what you do but how you do it – not who you do it for.

One of my favorite pieces of advice came from my professor while earning my Master’s Degree in HR from Ohio State University. He said:

“We teach you what should be done from a procedural standpoint, but you will quickly learn that what is practiced unfortunately is not the same thing.”

He’s right. The Trenches of HR is littered with people who can’t perform simple mundane HR tasks. There’s plenty of incompetency in the Trenches which is why EEO claims are high, employee engagement is low, and 70% of all employees are looking for new jobs.

There are some dynamic – super intelligent – uber fantastic – and extremely relevant HR professionals in the Trenches of HR – working everyday fighting the good fight. They take care of the employees; protect the company from liability, manage the processes, deal with the frustrations and headaches that come along with employee relations. They deserve all respect due for tirelessly pushing human resources forward. The frontlines of the war for talent management and organization development is TrenchHR.



chris fieldsChris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who also helps job seekers write great resumes. 

When you are hiring in the trenches, use SmartRecruiters, the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work & ResumeCrusade.