How HR is Like Art

The concept behind abstract art involves breaking down a subject matter to its most essential pieces. Abstract artists take their composition and strip away all of the unnecessary bits until all that’s left is the bare minimum needed for the viewer to understand what the artist is trying to convey. HR is a lot like art in that way.


HR professionals strip away all of the fluff and extraneous pieces in order to streamline processes to their most pure, essential form. For many of us HR folks, we don’t really have a choice in the matter. Our budgets have been cut down to the bare minimum. Supervisors don’t always trust us to truly help and employee morale is affected. Our main resources, in many cases, are just ourselves and our team (if we’re able to work cohesively).


So how do we succeed in making beautiful art out of practically nothing? To be honest, that’s actually one of my favorite challenges. Bare bones HR can be a fun endeavor, once it stops being so overwhelming. Most people don’t see it that way, which is understandable. How can you be excited and create something awe inspiring with slashed budgets and small teams?


My answer is really a very simple one. In keeping with thinking of HR like art, think of your limitations (ie, a small budget) as a color palette. Perhaps your team has only been given one color; you have to make it last and meet all of your needs. Some areas have to get spread pretty thin, even though it’s necessary for the overall picture to come together. But think of all the wondrous artwork out there that stops viewers in their tracks with a single color palette.


Monet’s blue period



Van Gogh’s Sunflowers




















Paul De Hann’s Tuscani



Pablo Picasso’s Guernica




These works are true feats of artistic mastery; conveying strong emotions and tackling difficult topics is hard enough to do with a full range of colors at your fingertips, let alone in monochrome. Similarly, we HR professionals may have limited options, but we have the opportunity to make something memorable. It could mean restructuring your department or giving up some perks.


One HR team I worked with got especially creative! They took the time to look at all of their assets, liabilities, and sat down to weigh the benefits of each item on the list. We quickly realized that there were areas that we were spending too much on silly things like tissues (to the tune of hundreds of dollars a year!), printing unnecessary things, and obsolete technology that we realized we were still paying service fees for even though we hadn’t used it in ages. Training was woefully underfunded and we had to convince management that it was even necessary.


With some finessing, and a lot of one-on-one talks to encourage employees to help us champion our cause, we were able to turn what could have been a difficult situation into a beautiful piece of art that left a lasting impression. Employee morale improved because we were able to adjust and provide much needed programs. Policies were clarified, the office was streamlined (and looked much nicer without all the extra clutter), and we settled for bulk purchases of a (slightly) lower quality tissue. In general, the benefits were numerous for not just HR, but almost every other department as well.


I highly recommend thinking of HR as being like art. It adds a bit of excitement and challenges you to find innovative ways to move forward. Creating something beautiful that employees will remember for years to come is a wonderful benefit too.



Need a little extra help rolling out your team’s initiatives? ABetterHR is here to help! Give us a call, send us an email, or schedule a time to discuss your goals and how we can best help you get to your Better.

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