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Monday, 27 July 2020 10:24

“An excellent book that shapes how you think about people and how to influence their behaviour to solve problems. It's a great guide to make logical and fair decisions on people matters and thereby improve your performance.”

For nearly seven decades, I have been reading books on various subjects as a habit. In terms of clarity, brevity and lucidness, two books rank highest in my list of choices. They are Buddhism in a Nutshell - by Late Ven. Naradha and Kalamanakarana Muleekanga - by Late Prof. Hema Wijewardena written in Singhalese. Both these changed my life for the better in terms of my personal spiritually and my approach to work. They stood out mainly due to the author's intuitive knowledge of the subject and the art in which ideas were profoundly delivered.

I had the privilege to go through the manuscript of “Business Oriented People Management” written by Attorney at Law and former Director-General of The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon and decided to write a short review with my views for the benefit of the future readers.

I can say without any reservations, that each chapter of this book was a delight to read. Having been away from organisational human resources for a few years, this was an opportunity for me to update my knowledge of People Management in modern times.

The author has used his vast experience in business, dealing with trade unions and Government ministries relating to labour and regulation, to show how challenges can be approached and managed in practical ways. His bold and conceptual thinking and ability to translate those ideas in simple ways to the reader is highly commendable.

I will certainly add this to my list of favourite self-help reads and recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their knowledge in issue and people management. I hope this book will be made available in Sinhala and Tamil for the benefit of the non-English speaking professionals who work in Human Resource Management in Sri Lanka.

I have also had a direct relationship with the author for many years, on business we well as on my own professional life. There have been many instances where I discussed my thoughts with him. I have learnt a lot from his guidance and advice. He has also encouraged me to do research and be innovative in my thinking. He can get you to 'zoom out' and think things through out-of-the-box. He has the rare ability to combine business and legal concepts with his own successes and failures in life, which is very inspiring. I see this book as a guide to understanding the discipline one would need to have in order to manage people effectively. The topic is relatable to all industry sectors, so I recommend this book to anyone working in management.

This book is also relatable to anyone who works in politics as it can help them make better decisions in the governance of a nation, by looking at national challenges from a commercial point of view. Citizens of a country are somewhat similar to employees of a business as both get motivated and make decisions based on economics. This book can undoubtedly help make political decision making more proactive.

A Few Important Things to Note on This Book;

A.      The chapters are not structured in the typical academic style, which one would expect this kind of book to have. Instead, the author used the chapter layouts to highlight issues that are important and relatable to the present time so they can be used as a quick reference guide to problem-solving. 

1.       Evolution of human resource management

2.       The corporate sector and rules for governance

3.       The people management function

4.       Performance management

5.       Globalisation, international obligations and markets

6.       Labour legislation and industrial relations

7.       Labour ministry and department

8.       Collective bargaining

9.       Conflict and dispute settlement

10.   Communications and negotiation

11.   Leadership and motivation

12.   Compensation and rewards

13.   Structured dialogue for better workplace relations   

B.      Introductory chapters cover some key useful historical facts and explain the evolution of legal concepts and management practices. It then goes on to discuss objective setting and individual performance management for teams which are the most crucial steps when it comes to managing people. The distinction between Industrial Relationship and Employee Relationships is also clearly differentiated at the outset. 

C.      One of the notable things in the book is how it brings crisis situations to the forefront of the discussion. For example, it uses the current Coronavirus pandemic as an example to show that even though it is not the fault of 'a single person' in the organisation, how it can create vulnerabilities and challenges internal employee procedures and practices that has been working for years – thus creating management issues. It certainly gives ample food for thought on how one should approach such problems in their own place of work. 

D.      The use of Senage Systematic Technology as a case study to discuss organisational performance vs. individual performance is a great way to show modern people managers how to incorporate theoretical concepts to everyday work life. 

E.       Another timely topic the book covers is the practice of Working from Home that increasingly became popular during Coronavirus pandemic. The challenges and opportunities it has brought up are immense, especially at it was an organic shift to everyday work life, where people were forced to get used to. Essentially the Working from Home scenario is very similar to a crisis situation for any company who had never experienced it before.  

F.       Another invaluable discussion the book brings to the forefront is about Human Capital Management (HCM). The art of balancing workforce acquisition, workforce management and workforce optimisation is not easy and understanding how it can be approached in a way that adds value to an organisation is a good skill to have for any manager.  

G.      The book also captures three trends that are very current in today's context. They are Talent AcquisitionPlanning for Business Risks and the Impact of Globalisation of local Industrial Relations and Human Resources. I found these discussions, both profound and thought-provoking. 

H.      One of the greatest traits the author has proven on himself on is his ability to be an effective and empathetic communicator and negotiator. He shows that, at times, effective listening can solve more problems than talking, which is a skill that most people lack. The chapters on Communication, Negotiation and Leadership truly reflect the author's confidence in these subjects.  

There is a saying in Sinhalese, “bokken-ma kiyana adahas”, meaning 'these ideas come directly from my gut'. I believe that this is precisely how the author has delivered his thoughts on this book. His sincere but confident articulation of ideas and how he relates them to his career and professional success is a great way to learn. 

This book was a great read for me for two reasons. Not only that I was able to refresh my own knowledge, but I was also able to lean on contributions made by other international experts in the field. Some of the notable mentions were:

·         Interest-based Problem-Solving Harvard Negotiating Model

  • The distinction between Profit Sharing and Gain Sharing
  • Inoue's writing on Gain Sharing systems in Japan
  • Warren Bennin's statements on Leadership
  • Greenleaf's concept of 'Servant Leadership'.
  • Daniel Yankelovich's point of view on "Relational Leadership" as against typical top-down hierarchical linkage
  • The importance of the "Social Dialogue" as suggested by the ILO 

I sincerely hope that the distribution of the book will make a positive change to anyone in Sri Lanka who manages people.  


Business Oriented People Management by Mr Franklyn Amerasinghe will be published on

31st July 2020

 You can reserve your copy by contacting the EFC Secretariat on 94 011 7 801801. 


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Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2020 10:30

The EMPFED -Third Issue - June 2020