A Different Kind of (HR) Trenches

Consulting in HR

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding Trench HR.  These are human resource professionals who work for organizations maybe as service HR postions, middle managers, and senior leaders for an organization.  For me, Trench HR is anyone who is below HR VP level and below.  Because let’s face it, if you are the Chief HR Officer for a large organization of more than 10,000 employees, you are far, far, far from the trenches.  And maybe that goes for VP level too.  I’m pretty sure that at a Fortune 100 company who is VP or Director status hasn’t spent time in the trenches outside of a few quick site visits and orchestrated employee focus group meetings.

Yes, I understand and appreciate what it’s like to work from the trenches of human resources especially since just a little more than two years ago I was right there along the front lines in corporate HR.  Going to battle every day working to balance the corporate politicking, bureacracy as well as engaging and supporting our most important corporate resource, the employees.

A Different Kind of (HR) Trenches

So now as a consultant to mainly HR and Recruiting teams I work in a different kind of trenches.  I serve as a sounding board for my clients helping them to navigate as well as educate social media and communication channels that industry practitioners are responsible for every single day.  As a consultant I serve as an outsider who provides a different perspective helping to guide my clients down a path that’s productive and best for the organization.

In these trenches, the consultant trenches, my job is to do the following:

  • Provide Perspective.  I see beyond the politics inside the organization because as a consultant, it’s not a part I have to play.  I work to get a lay of the land, understand the players, help with project flow, and serve as a subject matter expert on a topic. You either like or you don’t like my insights, and that’s okay.  But mostly I work to support the team I work with instead of secretly sabotaging someone’s project or program just because.  You know the type.  Don’t deny it.
  • Training.  Depending on the clients I work with, I provide them training and serve as a source of knowledge and information in areas where they lack.  Instead of hiring in someone as an employee, I provide a knowledge and topic transfer helping them to find their own solutions based on the training they ask for me to provide.
  • Sometimes Restate the Obvious.  Sometimes the best solution is the most simple and obvious solution.  And as a consultant, there are times when I suggest this very thing.  It’s likely the suggestion or idea that someone within your organization has thought of, but your boss has written off because they’re some young punk, have short tenure, or someone who doesn’t play the game.  Through a series of brainstorming efforts and guidance, you (the client) determine that this solution is the best for the organization.  Organizational change is much more effective when decision makers and those responsible are personally vested and that means the idea comes directly from them rather than me.
  • Serve as Your Voice.  This happens quite frequently.  The consultant suddenly arrives and senior leaders hang on their every word.  Reminds me of Office Space.  It’s my job to serve as your voice either as a consultant or here at Blogging4Jobs.  And that’s because I can do something that you can’t . . . . that is speak my mind.  Speaking my mind without fear from termination or reprimand from my boss because I work for myself.  Let’s face it half of time spent in the corporate world is jumping through hoops and filling out ridiculous spreadsheets.  So I’m willing to tell your story using my consultant title or blog to find an answer.

Your trench or my trench.  It’s really not all that different except I have to work harder to stay grounded and more vigilant to remember that without people like you, there wouldn’t be a trench at all.  So thank you from my trench to yours.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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