two people talking on video chat
From creating a seamless virtual training process to introducing the new employee to the team, there are several ways to acclimate new employees when working remotely. — Getty Images/Inside Creative House

The onboarding process has been proven to directly correlate with higher employee retention and better business results. Businesses that onboard their new hires achieve nearly double the profit of companies that don’t follow any sort of onboarding strategy.

There are three elements to a well-rounded onboarding program: organizational onboarding, technical onboarding and social onboarding. Hitting all three touchpoints offers employees a 360-degree view of the company, from the culture to the systems and structure.

The challenge: How do you successfully onboard a new hire with the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic?

[Read more: Welcome! Onboarding New Employees Is Key to Hiring Success]

Address logistical issues head-on

There are several logistical issues you will need to account for regarding equipment, access and conveying the company culture. Start by learning about your new employee's work setup. Are they able to work from home, or do they need to come to the office or join a coworking space? Do they have the equipment in place to do their job well? Focus on things like a company laptop, assistance with a stable internet connection and software licenses for particular programs or resources.

If working from home is not feasible for this new hire, discuss ways in which you can have them come safely to work. Is there a coworking space nearby they could join? Is there a way they can commute to your business safely? Do they feel comfortable interacting with customers? Some businesses find it useful to kick off onboarding with a logistics questionnaire or survey asking these very questions.

One last note: be sure to communicate the safety protocols for disinfecting any equipment that's changing hands. New hires want to know you're thorough from the outset, creating a sense of comfort from day one.

Create an onboarding hub

In an office setting, it's easier for new hires to ask questions as they encounter issues or uncertainty. To mitigate unnecessary confusion, create a central, virtual hub housing all your company documents, including the employee handbook and a code of conduct. Incorporate a breakdown of company systems and core processes, explaining particular resources.

Watch our full CO— Blueprint discussion on how to hire and onboard employees in a remote work environment.

One of the biggest challenges in working during a pandemic is conveying the culture of your small business.

Conduct technical training sessions

Set aside time for extensive training sessions with the new hire. While a new hire will bring their own skill set and experience, there’s no guarantee this individual is well-versed in using your company’s remote work set-up and software tools. A technical training session is also an opportunity to connect via video and start building a relationship with the team and managers.

It's all very well introducing programs and resources to employees, but training them to use them effectively is the real goal. New tech can be intimidating, so take the time to build up an employee's confidence. It'll benefit you in the long run if the onboarding training is as thorough as possible.

Welcome new employees

One of the biggest challenges in working during a pandemic is conveying the culture of your small business. Make it a priority to welcome a new hire and introduce them to members of the team. Schedule a social lunch hour or after work happy hour that can be hosted remotely. Remember, this is a chance to motivate your existing team members, too.

Follow up with a welcome email to the company, introducing the new employee and explaining their role. You want to ensure the employee feels the warmth of your company culture, despite working from afar. Encourage your team to reach out, too, introducing themselves and kickstarting those working relationships.

Let your new hire know that you're available, as well as how and when to contact you should they have any questions. Make it clear who else on the team is their go-to person for anything: HR needs, learning the ropes, etc.

Schedule check-ins

Set up regular check-ins during their first few weeks of employment. Create a space for questions, training, and relationship development. New employees want to feel part of the family. In a traditional office setting, it's easy to grab lunch together or go for a quick coffee to catch up. Don't forgo these interactions just because it's virtual.

Think of fun ways to integrate hires into existing teams and encourage a level of personal conversation before diving into meetings. Tech-savvy companies like InVision have introduced weekly sessions with little to no plan, purely so employees can jump in and socialize. It helps if you make a concerted effort to get to know your new teammates.

[Read more: 4 Smart Strategies for Onboarding Remote Employees]

Utilize relevant software

There are plenty of platforms available that can aid in onboarding employees remotely. Rippling and Clickboarding offer complete online solutions to employee onboarding. Other tools like BambooHR make building company culture from afar seamless. Set up accessible communication channels with programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams and utilize video-conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts. The goal is to keep everyone connected, motivated and engaged with their work.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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