UK workers turn to social media and AI to sharpen office skills

61% of all workers want training in generative AI, with more than half of 18–24 year-olds

61% of all workers want training in generative AI, with more than half of 18–24 year-olds

  • 61% of all workers want training in generative AI, with more than half of 18–24 year-olds already using generative AI to learn skills for the workplace
  • 66% of 18–34 year-olds want more soft skills training
  • Only a fifth of UK workers can find learning resources quickly at work

Most UK workers (62%) have used social media or online platforms to learn new workplace skills, with 20% doing so regularly, according to new research by KPMG UK, which suggests employers must develop more interactive ways of delivering their own in-house learning.

KPMG surveyed 2,000 UK desk based working adults from various sectors about the training offered by their employers and other learning avenues they used. The findings showed that often due to limited options, poor quality, and lack of accessibility in workplace learning, many are taking control of their own training and seeking more interactive ways to learn.

Over half (56%) of all 18–24 year-olds and a third of 25–34 year-olds have already used generative AI to learn new workplace skills, compared with only 15% of those aged 55-64, while 61% of all workers said they wanted specific training on how to use the technology.

KPMG says successful employers are using internal social learning platforms such as Microsoft Viva Engage, SAP Workplace, Cornerstone and Degreed to deliver their training resources, as well as incorporating generative AI into learning programmes to meet this new demand.

Alex Ball, Director, Learning Services at KPMG UK, said: "Since the pandemic we’ve seen significant transformations in how, why, and where UK workers learn, and a major shift in their need for digital and soft skills, which are well known skills gaps in the UK economy. We know that workers appreciate having dedicated time to learn and access to high-quality resources, but how they want to access those is changing.

“At home when we need to know something we can access the answer immediately by reaching for our smartphones. Today’s workers take this expectation of immediate answers with them to work, but often outdated learning technology means when they get stuck, they struggle to find the learning they need. Our research found that UK workers spend an average of 12 minutes searching for online resources, with only 22% able to locate resources in less than five minutes. This is why we are increasingly seeing workers turn to social learning platforms and AI to access learning in the workplace. There is a growing need for organisations to modernise their learning delivery tools to meet the expectation of modern workers, take control of the learning content and ensure that the learning consumed by their employees is aligned to their ambitions as an organisation."

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Workers need soft and digital skills

Only 44% strongly agreed they had the right skills to perform their roles effectively with the most in demand areas for learning being digital skills (44%), industry-specific knowledge (43%), and soft skills such as communication and leadership (41%).

Demand for soft skills was particularly high amongst 18–34 year-olds, with two thirds saying they wanted to improve their communication and leadership skills.

More than half of those surveyed (55%) want to learn more skills to improve performance in their current roles, while 48% believe learning will support future career progression. Only one in five (22%) said they were learning new skills so they can apply for other jobs.

Learning motivations differ by sector
What motivates people to learn new workplace skills differs across sectors. Improving performance in a current role was the biggest motivator, with 55% of all respondents agreeing this was a major driver.

However, in business and consulting, the figure rises to 70%, and in the legal sector it rises further to 79%, suggesting learning and development to improve current performance is seen as critically important by those working in these sectors. By contrast, only 40% of those working in energy, and 44% in engineering and manufacturing said improving performance was a big motivator.

A third of all people surveyed (31%) said they wanted to learn workplace skills so they could increase their chances of promotion in the next year. That figure rises to 43% for those working in healthcare, and to 54% in the hospitality and events sector. Conversely, only 15% of the legal sector and 24% of public services and administration workers said they were learning to gain promotion.

Generational differences are apparent in how people learn

The survey data reveals generational differences in how people prefer to learn, and how organisations must future proof their learning strategies to cater not only for the current generation of employees, but future ones too.

  • Those aged 65 and above enjoy traditional face-to-face learning above any other format, whereas every other age group 18-64 preferred online learning.
  • A third of 18-24 year-olds prefer to learn by doing their own research online, significantly higher than the 19% national average. A quarter of this group also prefer using social media or social learning platforms to learn new workplace skills as their primary source, compared with the UK average of 10%. This may suggest that younger workers who have grown up in an age of mass information exposure have developed strong critical thinking and decision-making skills.
  • Half of all respondents said they preferred to learn new skills organically through on-the-job experience and practice, but that figure drops to 36% for 18-24 year-olds, suggesting those early in their careers want more structured learning.
  • Londoners are the most active users of social learning solutions (76%) and generative AI (43%) when it comes to learning professional skills.

Alex Ball added: "Face to face training will always be the cornerstone of learning for modern workers but when delivered in a traditional way, it is losing relevance. Organisations should recognise the ways in which we engage with technology outside of work and integrate these digital interactions to support and apply learning gained in training sessions.

“Social media has the power to bring people together, which is why many organisations offer platforms where their employees can exchange experiences and learn skills in a more informal way, which is particularly important for many remote employees. Just as social influencers dominate our online experiences, many organisations are showcasing exceptional employees and provide a platform for them to share expertise and reflections on their work. Remote workers often lack immediate colleagues to learn from, so facilitating access to knowledgeable individuals is crucial.

“At home, streaming platforms often offer concise videos and podcasts with enriching discussions, perfect for commuting. Organisations should emulate this microlearning approach by offering easily accessible short videos and interactive quizzes, integrated into the workflow, and insightful podcasts made available for flexible listening. If organisations fail to provide their employees with the learning, they need delivered in a way which suits them, modern workers will revert to the smart phone.”

Karl Edge, Chief People Officer at KPMG UK, added: “Embracing a continuous learning mindset is a crucial component of KPMG UK’s own people strategy, helping our talent to unlock their full potential and ensuring our firm has the right skills and expertise to help our clients with their most complex challenges. Around a fifth of our people are working towards formal qualifications or accreditations at any one time, but just as important is our firm’s ability to offer personalised and timely learning modules, so our people can learn in the flow of their work. Our digital learning platform has a range of resources available, including technical training and opportunities to sharpen personal and professional skills, which complement our in-person programmes.  


“There is a vital need for learning opportunities to continue evolving, reflecting the changing landscape as well as the varying wants and needs of younger generations entering the workplace. Given rapid technological advancements, digital literacy is a strong focus, and our people are especially keen to learn more about the latest tools and how to make full use of them in their work. We continue to invest and evolve our own learning programme, recognising the role it plays in attracting and developing top talent. Whether it’s how to become a better leader or making the most of Artificial Intelligence, people must always be supported and encouraged to be curious.”

KPMG UK has one of the largest learning businesses in Europe, working across all industry sectors and helping UK Plc with its productivity and employee engagement and retention. With over 600 learning clients, it currently supports over 800,000 individual learners in the UK every year.

For more information about KPMG UK’s Learning Services team visit Workplace learning research: five ways to improve learning.




Notes to Editor:


The research was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of KPMG UK between 26 April 2024 and 02 May 2024. They polled 2,000 UK Adults from a variety of sectors who work behind a desk for 75% or more of the working day.



KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 20 offices across the UK with approximately 18,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.96 billion in the year ended 30 September 2023.

KPMG is a global organisation of independent professional services firms providing Audit, Legal, Tax and Advisory services. It operates in 143 countries and territories with more than 273,000 partners and employees working in member firms around the world. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee. KPMG International Limited and its related entities do not provide services to clients.