Jackie Asencio, President/CEO, C2 Essentials, Inc.Jackie Asencio, President/CEO
Having worked as an HR manager for a federal government contractor, Jackie Asencio witnessed firsthand the lack of expertise that these contractors had in managing their HR affairs. In addition to the typical HR functions, there is a higher degree of compliance that government contractors must adhere to. Recruiting employees, often on a project basis, and getting them through all the hiring formalities is easier said than done, especially with the “short notice” nature in which government contracts are awarded. With a vision to help federal contractors address their HR shortcomings, Jackie founded C2 Essentials. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, 25 years later, C2 Essentials has carved a unique niche in providing holistic HR services to government contractors.

In an interview with Manage HR, Kevin McCoy, General Counsel at C2 Essentials, shares insights on how, as a professional employer organization (PEO), the company positions themselves as their clients’ virtual HR department, while helping them navigate the complexities that the COVID-19 pandemic has bought forth.

In light of your experience, how has the PEO space evolved? And how has C2 Essentials positioned itself accordingly?

Back when C2 originally started, PEO, as an industry, was at the early stages of development. There were relatively fewer companies exclusive to the domain. Today, it is a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s gaining significant traction in the market (especially among SMBs), with many PEOs specializing in their operations for different industry verticals.

C2, in this regard, has carved a niche catering to federal contractors who lack HR expertise in various types of contracting. From recruiting, to payroll and benefits, formulating policies, and employee handbooks, along with all the “nuts and bolts” of HR administration, we provide the whole gamut of services.

On another front, technology has also evolved. It used to be that our industry was very paper-heavy with paychecks, offer letters, handbooks, and onboarding documents. Today, most of the services that we provide to our clients have been automated. Be it the onboarding process, benefits enrolment, or payroll; everything is technology oriented. Employees and clients can complete some of the biggest tasks from the convenience of their smartphones.

What are some of the challenges that your clients are facing today? And how do you address them?

At the moment, our clients’ biggest challenge is adapting to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, there have been newly introduced federal laws that allow for increased family medical leave and paid leave allowances. We have adjusted on the fly, responding to our clients’ needs in that area. A lot of our clients can take advantage of the payroll tax credit that was instituted at the federal level recently. Our payroll department has ensured that we capture those credits for our clients in the most compliant manner. We also ensure that our clients are informed about state-level closures and phases of reopening.

Could you walk us through C2 Essentials’ portfolio of services?

Our HR services include recruiting, payroll, benefits administration, compliance assistance, and employee relations management. We administer workers’ compensation for our clients while conducting training and development programs on HR issues. We routinely hold webinars and onsite training (although that is virtual now because of the pandemic.)

Our service offerings are on par with that of Fortune 500 companies’ in-house HR departments. We have essentially positioned C2 as our clients’ free-standing HR department. What sets us apart from the rest of the players in the space is that we provide the whole menu of services from which our clients can choose what they need based on their establishments’ size and niche. They can come to us with whatever functions or processes they already have, and we try to augment and work with them to provide a complete HR package.

Our clients have access to a proprietary technology platform called C2Connection that serves as a single source to attain all relevant payroll information, documentation, and announcements. The HR announcement feature came in very handy for our clients so they could easily stay up to date with changing HR requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It helped to keep employees and clients across all states well-informed.

What does your client onboarding process look like?

As a truly “white glove”, high-touch PEO and HR service provider, we adopt a proven, and time-tested two-fold approach for client onboarding. We walk our clients along the HR administration journey, educating them about the services that we provide and what they are intended for. Our client onboarding entails at least three meetings at sales, HR, and executive team levels. Once a new client signs a contract to join C2 Essentials, there is a kick-off meeting where we sit down with the clients (virtually, nowadays) and walk them through an HR-focused checklist designed to focus on their core HR needs. It is essentially a team approach to setting a robust set of HR functions, as though our clients are setting it up themselves.

A lot of PEOs operate at regional levels, but C2 is a national level entity and is capable of servicing clients in all states and overseas

This approach facilitates a smooth transition and allows the client to know what’s going on—helping them gain a clear understanding of how they are being integrated into C2’s systems. There are no surprises. Everyone is on the same page from day one. We position ourselves as a real substitute for our clients’ HR departments. C2 emphasizes providing a personalized touch to everything that we do. We are just a call or e-mail away for all our clients.

A lot of PEOs operate at regional levels, but C2 is a national level entity and is capable of servicing clients in all states and overseas.. We also have a distinct edge in helping federal contractors with the nuances of HR dealings with overseas employees.

Could you cite a customer success story that you’ve had in the recent past?

In the government contracting industry, companies lose and win contracts sometimes on relatively short notice. Often, our clients need to begin servicing their new contracts in a matter of days or weeks. To begin with, they often need to recruit and onboard employees ranging from a few to several hundred. We’ve really become adept at equipping our clients with the required workforce after recruiting candidates and taking them through all post-recruitment processes.

Having won a new government contract, one of our clients had ten days to ready about 75 new employees. To this end, within the time frame, we scaled the recruitment, and setup the payrolls, completed their onboarding documentation, and distributed handbooks and benefits packages. From an HR perspective, all 75 employees were ready to go on day one of the contract.

What does the roadmap look like for C2 Essentials?

The recipe that Jackie has crafted over the years has proven to be a good one. As we move forward, technology will become an increasingly significant component of providing top-notch and easy-to-use HR services. C2 Essentials will look to develop or leverage the best tech available to serve its clients better. In parallel, we will also continue to serve our client base through an unparalleled, high touch service that they have grown to expect.