When it's time to grow your business, you want to hire the most qualified applicants you can, and often that means expanding your search outside of your geographical area. Remote work is becoming more and more common, thanks to new technologies making it easier to work from wherever you are. When you hire your first remote employee, it's essential to have a plan for making sure that person is just as productive and connected as the rest of your team.

These six entrepreneurs explain how they've made remote workers key parts of their teams, and highlight steps you can take to make the onboarding process as smooth as possible for your first remote employee.

Keep the lines of communication wide open.

One of the most common tips business owners give is to prioritize open and frequent communication with remote team members. Sean Ogle, founder of remote business specialist Location Rebel, emphasizes communication every step of the way with a new remote worker.

"The key is lots of good and open communication," he says. "You not only want them to know what their role is, but also be open to discussions on everything from answering questions to clarifying something, to brainstorming ideas to getting a progress report on a project."

Don't forget about them!

If you've never hired a remote worker before, you're probably used to the everyday bustle of a full office and the ease of checking in with employees by stopping by their desks. But with a remote team member, it can be easy to lose touch.

"When you are busy, it's easy to take the 'out of sight, out of mind' approach," says Cynthia Johnson, co-founder of marketing agency Ipseity Media. "Remote workers do need to be acknowledged. Greet them daily and develop a rapport by having quick chats."

Measure success with concrete, short-term metrics.

When you can't visually track what a new hire is working on each day, you have to find other ways to measure the employee's progress.

"It's critical to build trust quickly with remote employees -- you need to feel 100 percent confident that they are working hard and on the right projects. Set short-term milestones: 'Here's what I want you to accomplish by the end of the day, the end of the week, and the end of the month.'" says John Rood, president and founder of online test-prep tutoring service Next Step Test Preparation.

Make use of project management tools.

Technology has made it easier than ever to keep remote employees connected and keep you up-to-date on their accomplishments, as well as any issues. Firas Kittaneh, CEO and co-founder of e-commerce brand Amerisleep, suggests using some of the many available tools to track progress.

"In an office setting, it's easy to find your colleague and get a quick update on progress. Sometimes remote workers aren't available the very moment you send a message," he says. "To get a real-time update on deliverables, leverage project management tools like Asana or Trello."

Focus on productivity rather than hours worked.

You may find it harder to trust remote workers are using their time productively. But Kyle Goguen, founder and CEO of specialty pet supply retailer Pawstruck, cautions business owners not to place too much concern on the exact number of hours your team members spend plugged in.

"Don't spend your time overanalyzing your remote worker's every move. Set clear expectations with quantifiable goals and metrics. If your doesn't employee hit the preset goals in the agreed-upon timeframe, find the root cause and coach the employee," he says.

Bring remote workers into your company culture.

It's just as important for remote workers to feel connected to the company as it is for you to feel connected to them. Make sure they feel included not only in work-related communications, but also in the overall company culture.

"Focus on getting remote workers as engaged as possible with their coworkers," says Michael Spinosa, CEO of web development firm Unleashed Technologies. "This helps them acclimate to the culture of the company quickly, understanding that you expect a certain level of performance and professionalism."

Published on: May 1, 2017