A holistic approach to People Management Print
Tuesday, 11 August 2020 00:00
Business Oriented People Management by Franklyn Amerasinghe which is to be launched soon, validates that people management is about understanding that the people employed are more than a resource to earn profits and they are as valuable as the investor himself…

by Randima Attygalle

‘Thousands of students are now looking at entering the field of ‘People Management’ and one drawback for them is that usually they study Human Resource Management as part of a curriculum for certification, but they often have no exposure to a holistic analysis of how the ‘People Management’ function is integrated into the functioning of the business.’

The preface to Franklyn Amerasinghe’s latest compilation, ‘Business Oriented People Management’, which is to be launched soon, underlines the fundamental objective the author seeks through his work. The author who alludes to the Human Resource or the HR function as ‘People Management’ further qualifies: “the term ‘Human Resources’ leaves an ugly taste in the mouth. It seems to look at the human element as just another resource like money. People management is about understanding that the people employed are more than a resource to earn profits and they are as valuable as the investor himself.”

The book which deals with the evolution of human resource management, the corporate sector and its rules for governance, people management and performance management, globalization and international obligations, labour legislation, collective bargaining, leadership, dispute management and much more, enables the ‘People Manager’ insights into how decisions are taken and also indicates the benefits for Boards of Companies to have a people-centric focus in their business policies. The sustainability of the corporate and the social aspects of the business are also given attention.

The book, Amerasinghe explains, provides a basic picture of how a private sector organization complies with its multitude of obligations relative to all stakeholders. A publication by the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Business Oriented People Management’ , as its one time Director General/CEO, Amerasinghe notes, is “conceived as a supplementary aid to all those responsible for managing people whether they be designated as HR Personnel or not.”

Amerasinghe who was also a Senior Specialist at the ILO for Employers’ Organizations in East Asia, translates his wealth of experience in his scholarly pursuits. A prolific writer credited for many functional compilations on mediation and cooperation at workplace, conflict management and social dialogue, he has also served on many prestigious Boards and Committees in the public and private sectors.

His latest work provides insights to the executives managing people and how they should fit into the overall achievement of business plans. An unfortunate trend the author notes, is for such executives to look very exclusively at their immediate tasks and targets neglecting the larger picture of the organization. “The fact that each executive contributes to fulfill a corporate plan is sometimes forgotten in pursuit of personal goals. Moreover, many think that following blindly, and without question, policies handed down by higher management is loyalty and is sufficient. Every employee at whatever level should be encouraged to contribute to the development of the company and its policies. Some areas of activity mentioned are for the purpose of identifying the People Manager as vital in the business interests of a private sector organization which is dynamic and looking for sustainable growth,” notes the author adding that the People Manager has two distinct functions: his personal performance and to encourage others with whom he interacts to play their part in corporate performance.

Current management structures, the author observes, reflect that increased responsibility for handling people rests outside the traditional HR Department, although laying down policy and monitoring what is done at departmental level would still remain with it. “Thus the book is meant to assist all managers who participate in managing people,” he says. The advent of digitization and new forms of work arrangements have shifted the ‘circumstances’ of the HR Manager to another level thus changing gears in his/her performance role, says Amerasinghe. “The traditional role of the HR Manager, however, remains the same which is to make the employee contented and motivated to contribute to the organization.”

Paying significant attention to the skills needed on a day to day basis such as dispute handling, negotiation and communication, the book also focuses on industrial relations, an area which the author feels is now quite overlooked, as the HR function looks more and more towards isolating people at work and dealing with them individually. “This does not usually work in the Sri Lankan setting as there is a cultural desire to indulge in collective thinking, especially in rural areas.” The era when production and service centres were in Colombo has been replaced by a policy of moving to rural and suburban centres, with a large number being in Industrial Zones which attract a large number of rural workers.

“The rural worker is conditioned by peer pressure and a strong resistance to change from their traditions. The COVID pandemic which has seen mass loss of jobs especially at lower levels will probably bring back industrial relations to merit more consideration again,” observes the writer.

Amerasinghe’s latest compilation also enables a window to the past in which corporates tackled issues of their employees. Originally the intention was to have an employee who dealt with ‘fire-fighting issues’. The development of HR strategies as a means of keeping employees in line with business requirements was aided by circumstances such as the debacle of the unions in July 1980 and the disillusion which followed. “There has been a remarkable change in the culture of blue collar workers by the movement of collective power to the workplace as opposed to the earlier reality of workers being made to follow the dictates of political parties and their interests,” says Amerasinghe whose latest book balances the advantages of collective agreements against the desire of employers to make employees more focused on their individual terms and earnings which as he says is the key component in the strategy to motivate employees to be more productive.

The COVID situation as the author further observes, brings out a new dimension, which is the futility of legislation to guarantee terms and conditions of employment in the face of employers not having the capacity to meet their legal obligations “The law cannot force employees to stand up for their rights when confronted by a situation when they must either accept what is offered or starve.” The book deals with the legal situation and the need for employers to think of their social responsibility towards employees. “Moreover, in the long term they may have look for new employees when they need to think of ramping up their production or services again.”

The author in his work refers to the Personnel Managers of the past who grew into managing people by long association with the organization. “The more experience one has at the lowest levels of an organization, the more effective one could be. HR personnel should have compulsory internships. Through my book I try to focus on the need to fully comprehend what the organization is about and its responsibility which in turn devolves on the management.” He also goes onto note that there is an onus placed on the management to afford opportunities for the HR personnel to constantly upgrade themselves and be innovative.
scroll back to top
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 August 2020 10:09