a group of people standing next to a man in a suit and tie

In the latest episodes of our ongoing Public Sector Podcast Series, I’ve invited expert guests to explore the challenges facing government and public service today – and how their lives have been impacted by the issues we discuss. 

Using hard data as a starting point, we explore the changing world of hybrid work. Guided by our own experiences of neurodivergence and disability, we debate how a more collaborative and accessible approach can drive efficiency across the public sector. In most cases we find that it can be done using technology that governments already possess.  

As a former policy advisor with hands-on experience of shaping equality legislation, these issues are all very close to my heart. 

Aligning leaders and teams to make hybrid work, work

The first episode of the Public Sector Podcast Series, season four, is The Future of Work – Facing the Hybrid Challenge. In it, Microsoft’s Henry Rex, industry advisor, and Rakhi Sachdeva, modern workplace specialist, discuss findings from the latest Work Trends Index report. The numbers reveal a significant disconnect between managers and teams around attitudes to remote working. 87 percent of remote employees reported feeling confident in their productivity at work, while only 12 percent of managers felt the same way about the performance of their remote teams.  

Managers can benefit from investing more trust in their teams and using soft skills to ensure that everyone gets access to the vision and culture of the organisation, which is key to productivity. Helping staff learn new skills ‘on the go’ improves both retention and productivity. We also discuss how a more flexible approach to work can empower individuals who have differing needs to be more effective. Building trust between management and staff enables everyone to align around the public service mission; as Henry Rex points out, people often join an organisation for the money, but stay there for the culture.

Neurodivergence and the innovation challenge

In episode two, Innovate Together, Microsoft account technology strategist, Andrew Boxall, talks about managing change in government and how it can enable staff to embrace more productive and collaborative ways of working. Along the way we discuss our shared experiences of being neurodiverse in the workplace, which provides insights into the challenges of data-driven innovation. 

Addressing bias and differing learning styles enables public servants to collaborate better across organisations. The Innovate Together initiative, supported by Microsoft, aims to accelerate innovation and best practice sharing across the public sector. Trailblazers like Norfolk County Council provide an inspirational example of how advanced techniques such as robotic process automation can drive efficiency.  

Success depends on leaders who set an example and have the initiative to share their learnings. All our guests agreed that making better use of existing tools is a great way to achieve incremental efficiency gains in government, and start building confidence. 

Extending accessibility and inclusion to drive productivity 

In episode three, Accessibility, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, I speak to Maria Grazia Zedda, senior EDI manager at HS2, who is severely deaf. Maria Grazia speaks movingly about overcoming the challenges of disability and hardship when she arrived in London as a young woman. London is also where she found support on her career path and discovered her vocation, improving accessibility in the workplace for everyone. These uplifting experiences are captured in her first novel which is to be published in her native Italy. 

Maria Grazia welcomes the adoption of new technologies that enhance accessibility and inclusion, such as minicoms and auto-captions (Live Captions in Microsoft Teams), the use of which was accelerated by remote working. The momentum now needs to be maintained so that inclusion becomes a fundamental principle of the workplace and the built environment. 

Explore episodes from our previous series 

Our previous three podcast series provide fascinating insights into how efficiency in the public sector could be improved with fresh thinking.  

Public Sector Podcast Series – Season One

In Public Sector Podcast Series – Season 1, guests discuss how citizen services can be enhanced using new digital technologies. Further episodes explore the challenges of managing security across government in a digital world, and overcoming the barriers to legacy estate reduction. Hindsight is also explored as a means of understanding past mistakes and improving government performance in the future.

Public Sector Podcast Series – Season Two

Public Sector Podcast Series – Season 2 builds on these themes, looking at how citizen identity in government can be managed simply and securely. The challenges of hybrid work, and the uses of geospatial data science in the context of the government’s levelling-up agenda, are also up for discussion. A highlight from series two is the episode that draws lessons from the Environment Agency’s experience of digital transformation. Cross-government data sharing also comes under scrutiny.

Public Sector Podcast Series – Season Three

Public Sector Podcast Series – Season 3 digs deeper into data sharing and how citizens engage with government. We assess the government’s Green agenda and the challenge of data literacy in driving innovation across the public sector. And what, we ask, do young people think about entering public service? We devote an episode to figuring out the changing face of apprenticeship in a hybrid world.

Find out more

Successful trial of the Microsoft and Socitm Change Agent programme

Our innovation – Norfolk County Council

Microsoft 365 Collaboration Blueprint for UK Government – Microsoft Industry Blogs – United Kingdom

How the public sector can streamline operations and innovate with intelligent automation – Microsoft Industry Blogs – United Kingdom

About the author

Aaron Prior

Aaron has worked at Microsoft as an industry advisor for central government for the last four years. Before that he spent twenty-five years in the public sector across a number of departments, in both central and local government, leading on technology policy and strategy. Most notably, he worked on the creation of the Equality Acts (2006 and 2010), the Public Sector Equality Duty and the translation of the EU Accessibility Regulations over to the UK. Outside of his day job, Aaron lectures on accessibility, inclusion and neurodiversity at local institutions and across the wider tech sector.