Circles of Support: Bernhard Leans In Offers Employees a Chance to Network, Learn, Lead and Grow

Bernhard’s never-ending quest to create the leaders and can-do attitudes needed for another century of growth is a big part of why we’re excited about our latest culture initiative: Bernhard Leans In.

We believe a company should be more than just a place to earn a paycheck. Building an organization that’s ready for what’s next, driven by interconnected teams that come together to weather the storm requires creating not just a company, but a community. A network of opportunity, peer support, and a platform for personal and professional growth that gives every employee the tools, connections and confidence they need to be their best selves.

Built on a network of small discussion groups called “Lean In Circles” that can be created and led by any Bernhard employee, the program is focused on inspiring discussion, education and connection, backed by step-by-step guides to help Circle members get the most out of every meeting. Designed to help Bernhard employees connect through their unique backgrounds and interests, Lean In Circles are welcoming, supportive spaces to share experiences and tackle questions among peers. Circles are formed around a common thread, from the unique issues faced by minorities in leadership roles to the concerns of new parents balancing their work-life.

The goal of Bernhard Leans In is creating a community of connection that helps employees feel more empowered and ready to achieve their personal and professional ambitions.


Though Bernhard Leans In is open to all, Lean In was originally conceived and established as a global initiative dedicated to helping empower women in the workplace. Launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to coincide with the publication of her 2013 book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” the initiative was created to help women achieve their full potential by encouraging them to “lean in” to their goals without settling for less.

Studies have shown two-thirds of participants in Lean In Circles have taken on new challenges as a result of their involvement, while 73% feel equipped to be better leaders.

Created around traits like ethnicity, job title, or personal milestones like being a new parent or a young professional, these small discussion groups foster honest and open communication, help employees broaden their professional networks, encourage discussion with colleagues that participants might not otherwise interact with on a regular basis and build connections and collaboration.

Lean in Circles usually come together virtually for an hour each month to connect and discuss a specific topic. Meetings follow a standard agenda centered around education or connection activities from one of many step-by-step discussion guides available through the

Every Lean In Circle is unique. The participants decide the size of the group, how often it meets, what topics are discussed, activities and more. Ideally, the goal is for participants to leave their Lean In Circle meeting every month having learned new skills through peer mentorship and structured discussion.


There are currently 20 Circles in Bernhard’s Lean In network, with over 150 employees participating in discussions. Established by Bernhard’s Head of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Alyssa Jaksich and ESG Analyst Ashtyn Bell, the Bernhard Lean In network includes Circles for remote workers, women in management, African American employees, LGBT+ employees, deaf and hard of hearing employees, participants in Bernhard’s Young Professionals program, and more.


Participating in Bernhard Leans In offers numerous benefits for employees both personally and in their career:

  • COMMUNITY BUILDING: Ever wish you could find a supportive community in the workplace for your specific goals or lived experience? That’s what Lean In Circles are all about: connecting with colleagues who understand your ambitions, challenges, and experiences.
  • PEER MENTORSHIP: Bernhard Leans In gives employees the opportunity to learn from each other, fostering the culture of mutual growth and mentorship that has helped Bernhard excel since 1919.
  • FOSTERING LEADERSHIP: By participating in Lean In Circles, employees can improve a range of career-building, leadership-ready skills, from public speaking to leading crucial conversations.
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Being married to the grind is yesterday’s career strategy. Today’s plan: taking advantage of professional education and networking opportunities like Bernhard Leans In.
  • PERSONAL GROWTH: What qualities define personal wellness and growth? Confidence, resilience, being tactful but honest with others, especially about your concerns. Lean In Circle discussions help participants build these crucial skills.
  • DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: Diversity and inclusion are more than just words at Bernhard. By providing space for diverse groups to learn, discuss and engage in issues important to them, we’re honoring our commitment to real, meaningful inclusivity.
  • NETWORKING: Business is about who you know. How will someone you become acquainted with through a Lean In Circle today be able to help you in business or your career tomorrow?
  • EMPOWERMENT: It’s not called “Lean In” for nothing. By giving employees the ability to create communities and head up discussions, Bernhard Leans In empowers employees to follow their ambitions and take on leadership roles within their most authentic selves.

It’s our hope that the launch of Bernhard Leans In will help every team member feel more empowered to achieve their personal and professional goals while building new connections and creating a more united Bernhard.

About the Author:

Alyssa Jaksich is currently the Chief of Staff and Head of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) at Bernhard where she develops, consolidates, operationalizes, and publicizes Bernhard’s ESG strategies and initiatives through coordination with multiple internal teams and business stakeholders, furthering Bernhard’s ongoing mission of promoting sustainability. She previously served as Bernhard’s Vice President of EaaS implementation where she led a team focused on increasing efficiencies within the solutions division at Bernhard, particularly related to Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) projects. She was a key driver in the development of Bernhard’s industry leading measurement and verification services, and was heavily involved in the development of numerous EaaS projects. Jaksich earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., double majoring in chemical physics and economics.