How Not to Burnout Your Millennial Superstars from Peak Performance

group of diverse millennials talking together

Studies have shown that Millennials are more prone to burnout than Gen X or Boomers and not maintain a peak performance state. In the war for talent, it is best to be prepared and, even with youth and vigor on their side, help them maximize their drive without losing their momentum.

So who are these Millennials exactly?

They are the generation born between 1981-1996, ranging in age from 23-38. I bet it’s safe to assume that by now a majority of your team are Millennials.

The question remains, how can this young, driven and enthusiastic group of professionals ever experience burnout in the first place?

According to experts, Millennials are susceptible to burnout because their parents have raised them to always be ‘on,’ resulting in a generation that feels like they are ‘working’ 24/7. In his book, Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, Malcolm Harris points out that Millennials have been “trained, tailored, primed and optimized for the workplace-first in school, through secondary education.” Harris further explains that play has been “optimized” and parenting labeled as “intensive.”

Harris continued, “Running around the neighborhood has become supervised playdates. Unstructured day care has become pre-preschool. Neighborhood Kick the Can, or pickup games have transformed into highly regulated organized league play that spans the year. Unchanneled energy (diagnosed as hyperactivity) became medicated and disciplined.”

Surprising Survey Results

What is the result of this optimized upbringing? A survey headed by Yellowbrick has found that of the Millennials experiencing burnout or mental exhaustion, nearly 75% blame burnout on their workplace. Additionally, more than half miss work due to burnout effects.

Ugh, what a mess! What should we do? First, understand what makes Millennials tick. Then try to meet those needs, and create an overall culture that attracts and keeps all generations of superstars running at their best.

8 Peak Performance Tips to help avoid burnout of your Millennial superstars.

1. Trust building– Building trust takes time. However, from the beginning, align your words and your actions. When there is a disconnect between a leader’s words and actions, employees are less likely to become engaged and committed to the organization. Building trust is worth the effort because once trust is lost, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to recover.

Developing trust also requires modeling the behavior you want your team to display. Remember your response, influences employee action, and has the potential to drive or ruin their results. If you say teamwork is essential, reinforce the point by collaborating across teams and functions. Give credit where credit is due, and you’ll set the stage for an appreciative culture.

Finally remember that when you and other leaders acknowledge your mistakes as well as successes, employees see you as credible and trustworthy and will follow your lead. 

Leading By Example

2. Communicate and listen– Even when it’s difficult, tell the truth and not just what you think people want to hear. Practice the adage, “praise in public, counsel in private.”  Effective leaders strive to understand what employees need to know and communicate facts while being considerate of their effort and sensitive to their feelings. This includes showing support and understanding for your team members, even when they make mistakes. It goes a long way to building trust as a leader. 

Also, practice active listening and check for understanding by repeating back what they have said. Use a variety of feedback tools to ensure everyone has the chance for their voice to be heard. Some organizations have incorporated a modified version of the retrospective (from Agile Project Management) to make sure everyone from the group is heard. Employees must be engaged in dialogue to allow them to ask questions, get answers, express an opinion, and voice concerns. Then, apply what your internal stakeholders share for future actions.

Little Wins Matter

3. Win- Everyone wants to win. And everyone wants to sell for the company that wins. It’s vital to celebrate bringing in big deals, but it’s almost more important to celebrate the small wins. Publicly praise the rep who got you on the RFP short-list, the rep who sold the first client in a new vertical and the rep who sold the brand new product. Have a contest regarding who can deliver the best sales presentation or build the best custom deck. Use your budget for small rewards as the impact goes a long way in helping your team feel that success is attainable and recognized.

Another powerful technique that is the ’all-staff sales win’ emails. These emails open your group to receive praise from the entire organization and allows their contributions to feel important overall.

4. Work on your EQ– Emotional Intelligence is a fundamental skill of effective leaders, but it primarily affects the sales team. Sales Hacker has a terrific definition of EQ: “Emotional intelligence is grounded in everyday smarts: we want to stay, hang around, work, and do business with people who are likable, supportive, enthusiastic, and trustworthy. In contrast, we tend to avoid people who are difficult to be with, easily irritable, and negative.” 

Empower Through Education

If you are having challenges in this area, consider using some third-party training. At SPARXiQ, we’ve seen organizations who need some help with EQ, so we designed some training on how to discover what your personality type is and then how to sell to the other personality types. It’s highly effective peak performance training to say the least!

5. Continuous improvement– No one wants to work in an organization or a sales team that is stagnant. Approach situations with a “what can we do better” mindset. Also, be on the lookout for new techniques and technologies that can better your team’s peak performance. One approach might be to assign one of your Millennial team to access new sales tools. This is a win-win as it will appeal to the Millennial as they see themselves as tech-savvy and will communicate your trust in their ability.

6. Coach– No one in sales wants to be managed, but they will accept coaching. A 2018 Gallup Poll says that employees “whose manager is always willing to listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out.” Coaching is a two-way communication method that aims at influencing and developing the employee. One of the most critical aspects of coaching is that it teaches critical-thinking, which eventually leads to self-reliance. In my experience, the most effective leaders guide the rep and then get out of the way.

Values & Purpose

7. Be values-driven– Millennials are engaged by understanding how their work changes the world. I worked with a company whose main client is state and local government. Their Millennial employees were especially intrigued with stories about how the product helped the staff assist residents during a hurricane. Help your team connect their work with the mission and goals of the organization. Another company set up charitable days where the employees could volunteer at a non-profit of their choice instead of coming into work one day per quarter.

8. Encourage autonomy and flexibility–  Autonomy is the human need to perceive that people have choices and that they are the source of their own actions. Give your employees as much flexibility and autonomy as you are able. Use your coaching to help reps help themselves.  Gallop says “employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in deciding what tasks to do when to do them and how much time to spend on them.” How leaders frame communications either promotes the likelihood that the salesperson will perceive autonomy or unsettles it.


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