Coaching Circles: How social connection helps drive growth and performance

June 3, 2021 - 9 min read
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How group learning builds connection

Ongoing and impactful development

Strengthen connections and build resilience

Learning designed for a modern workforce

As companies move toward a new hybrid work environment, building connections across the organization and cultivating community with peers will be more important than ever.

For many of us, exiting pandemic life and embracing a new hybrid work environment requires a complete paradigm shift. Our support systems have evolved, relationships with colleagues may have changed, and studies show that our social connectedness may be at its lowest point, leading to increased harm to our overall well-being. 

After a year plus of a daily routine rooted in lockdown, remote work, and blurred lines between home and work, people feel stuck, less satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to leave their company in the next six months

The pandemic and sudden shift to remote work brought on a new normal rooted in “inside-out” thinking — an insular approach to building and scaling new processes, systems, and tools, which was essential to making our daily lives functional. But as the workforce transitions into a new phase of working more collaboratively again in person and in hybrid environments, outside perspectives, strong communications skills, and empathy will be key in achieving success and fostering inclusive work environments.  

For employers, the challenge of boosting or rekindling this social connection is a timely one, and the impact of addressing it can prove beneficial. When people feel a sense of connection at work not only do they perform at a higher level, but business costs reduce, as does turnover and absenteeism

Social connection is good for organizations, and it’s better for employees. So, how can organizations reincorporate it at scale, expose employees to new and diverse opinions they need to grow, all while providing effective ways to learn?

How group learning builds connection

Last fall, BetterUp introduced Coaching Circles™, which are group coaching experiences that help organizations deliver personalized development to even more employees, increase social connection and trust, and build the skill sets needed to thrive through change. 

Coaching Circles™ are six-week development experiences led by a BetterUp Coach that equip employees with highly relevant skills through practice in small group settings. With Circles, participants gain the ability to regularly exchange ideas with a cross-company community of their peers around topics that contribute to their personal growth.

The structure of Circles sessions provide participants needed space to problem-solve in real time with the guidance of an expert, gain new perspectives from others working through similar challenges, and rebuild the social connections that promote success in their personal and professional lives.


Those high in social connection have 25% higher life satisfaction, 18% higher job satisfaction, and feel 17% more meaning and purpose in their work.


Ongoing and impactful development

Once employees complete their initial BetterUp Whole Person Assessment, they’ll understand their strengths, areas for growth, and create a personalized roadmap for how to tackle goals they want to achieve. From there, employees can explore a diverse range of Coaching Circle topics that support their developmental journey and join the Circle that best fits their needs at any given time. 

Each Circle spans six weeks and takes place weekly to create a consistent rhythm of learning for participants. BetterUp Coaches are present on every call to help facilitate the sessions, provide insights, and guide conversations between the 6-8 regular participants. 

Compared to other traditional training approaches, these smaller group sessions offer an intimate setting that encourages participants to tap into a community with similar aspirations,  exchange ideas, and find practical ways to apply their learnings. They’re more effective, too — Coaching Circles help drive sustained learning impact for participants while also fostering accountability for each individual’s goals and development.

Coaching Circle participants report:

  • Ability to create stronger networks & building new relationships, often cross-functionally
  • Having ~5 colleagues with which they had a stronger connection
  • 94% felt that through the Coaching Circle, they could openly share their thoughts and feelings 
  • 90% felt they were able to have a real discussion with their colleagues

Even when a Circle concludes, the learning never stops — smart recommendations from BetterUp will provide other relevant topics to explore once a Circle concludes, and our pulse check-ins and 360° assessments help ensure accountability and track insight into progress.


For companies like ours with many tenured leaders, Coaching Circles give them exposure to other people in other businesses with fresh ideas and perspectives.

BetterUp Partner

Strengthen connections and build resilience

Coaching Circles™ are a unique way to rebuild social connection and empathy skills because they provide exposure to a cross-company community of peers. These diverse groups help unlock new insights and perspectives that can aid in overcoming challenges in our own lives. 

Circle participants get to hear directly from others who may be in their industry — or even in their own company — and facing similar challenges or struggling to accomplish like-minded goals. This collaboration and camaraderie can not only be empowering, but can also help normalize feelings that may otherwise feel out of place.

Coaching Circles™ help employees gain a deeper understanding of their own strengths, areas of development, and ways to work and grow alongside their peers. The repeated positive social interactions Circles provide help participants cultivate a shared experience which leads to more trusting relationships in the workplace. When that trust exists between employees, cooperation and productivity increase as a result.


“Getting additional perspectives and insights from my peers was so valuable and left me feeling more connected to people.”

BetterUp Coaching Circles participant

Learning designed for a modern workforce

While one-off training may work for some people, most struggle with what is known as the training transfer problem. Because of a steep forgetting curve, we lose up to 75% of the information we receive in one-off training or workshops, making “one and done” learning ineffective. 

Instead, Coaching Circle sessions fit into every employee's schedule with a weekly cadence and provide a seamless way to continue progress toward goals, access relevant content and resources when needed, and check-in with their learning community to get a deeper perspective. Coaching Circles™ also provides access to an "always-on" chat feature, which helps group members connect — wherever and wherever they need to — outside of live sessions. Support and encouragement are never more than a click away. 

Coaching Circle topics are fresh and relevant to today’s workforce and continuously expanding and updated with the latest research. Circles focus on practical skill-building essential for today’s challenges, like how to take more ownership of our time, ways to tackle challenging emotions and build resilience, why using a framework to deliver effective feedback is essential, and much more.

Learn how Coaching Circles™ can help your people build stronger social connections.

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Published June 3, 2021

Adam Wood

Sr. Content Marketing Manager

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