April 4, 2017

As the importance of database administrators – DBAs – continue to grow, along with a strong economy that offers an abundance of DBA job openings, many companies are concerned about the threat of DBA turnover. Your DBA is responsible for the performance, integrity, and most importantly, the security of your database every day, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Any down time, and your company can suffer lost revenue, or even worse, a significant data breach. The nature of this work lends itself to burnout because it is a daily, ongoing challenge and seemingly never complete. With these constant stresses, many DBAs often feel overlooked and as though they perform a thankless job. Some fear they’re only noticed when the inevitable hiccups in database systems occur.

There is no shortage of job opportunities for talented DBAs, and there are only so many to go around. More and more companies are making it a priority to keep their DBAs happy to avoid burnout and thereby minimizing the chance they will proactively seek out a new opportunity. Following are some practical ways to keep your DBA engaged at your company to reduce the risk of turnover.

5 Steps to Prevent Burning Out Your DBA

Your DBA is one of the most valuable employees at your company. Go out of your way to demonstrate how much you recognize their value. If your DBA feels underappreciated they can leave your company with serious problems if they leave to pursue another opportunity. Not only would you have to take over database management responsibilities, but you’ll also have to recruit, hire, and train a new DBA. And once they’re settled and operating at maximum efficiency—which can take several months—you could face the same problems of burnout if you don’t implement the five recommendations outlined here to prevent a DBA burnout at your company.

Step 1: Commit to Training

The IT industry is constantly changing. Your DBA needs to stay up-to-date on the latest techniques, systems, and best practices, not to mention the latest security threats. Send your DBA to training courses and national conferences to provide a much-needed break out of the office. This helps keep them up-to-date on industry standards and shows that you’re interested in their career development as well. Another approach to training is to allow your DBA to block out time on a weekly basis for reading or watching technical, educational webcasts. DBAs want to continually learn. When you enable it, you reduce the chance of burnout.

Step 2: Recognize Their Efforts

One of the best ways to avoid DBA burnout is to show how much you value them as important members of your team. The ongoing burdens and responsibilities of a DBA can sometimes seem like an exercise in futility due to the stress level of the job. Make sure you take the time to celebrate their successes. Take them to lunch. Give them time off. Buy them tickets to sporting or theater events. Also, take time to listen to the challenges they face and help in any way possible. Treat your DBA as a human by showing that you care about their well being. The more you demonstrate genuine care for your DBA the less likely they will burnout.

Step 3: Encourage Work – Life Balance

We all have responsibilities outside of work. While there are times when work has to come first, likewise there are times when family circumstances need to take top priority. Be understanding about those situations to show your DBA that you value them as a person and not just for the technical role they play in your company. The less time people spend with family and friends, the more stressed and frustrated they can feel. The better the work-life balance at your company, the more you reduce the risk of burnout and the more you increase loyalty to your company. Loyalty can be a big asset when other companies come knocking on your DBA’s door with new job opportunities.

Step 4: Involve Your DBA in the Company Vision

The more a DBA is aligned with your company’s values and the pursuit of your mission, the more they’ll feel part of the team. Everyone at your company should be working towards achieving the same goals. Your database management team is critical to the continued success of your company. Make sure they understand how their role fits into the overall strategy and create an environment where they feel good about coming to work every day.

Step 5: Competitive Salary

It’s not always about the money, but minimizing the importance of paying a competitive salary is a mistake that your company cannot afford to make. Reliable DBAs are hard to find and retain. Don’t allow your company to be the cheapest in town, or your DBAs will be motivated to leave whether they are burned out or not. There are too many good job opportunities for competent DBAs. While salary may not be the only factor, it is an important part of any career decision. Do your research on current industry standards and – if you can – pay more than average to keep your top DBA talent.

DBA Burnout at Smaller Companies

DBA burnout is especially common in smaller firms because often, the database management team is one person. They know they have the data of the entire company on their shoulders. When your DBA is stretched to the limit, they may miss deadlines and succumb to the pressures of the high demands placed on them. As an executive, it’s important that you know the pulse of your employees. Take the necessary precautions to avoid burning out your DBA.

What to do if Your DBA Leaves

JFK once said,* “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” Heeding this advice, you should create a contingency plan to be prepared in case your DBA leaves. If your DBA does leave, assess your security risks, understand the different processes and backups, and know about any problems or concerns.

No matter how tempting it might be, I urge you not to hire a database development team. They are constantly on the prowl for the “next gig.” Often, they come in and take on a number of responsibilities. However, once you’re set up, they might move on to the next project, with no one left behind to maintain your database.

I hope these five suggestions will help you reduce the risk of DBA burnout. Another one for you to consider is augmenting your team with a top tier database management firm like Spinnaker Support. We can help you improve your efficiency which can free up your DBA’s time to focus on work that is more rewarding to them. Get in touch with us to explore this further.

JFK quote attribution: BrainyQuote

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