As someone who has spent more than a couple of decades in Human Resources, I can say that most of us have a favorite practice within our ranks. Some lean toward organizational design, some love compensation strategy, but my heart will always belong to Talent Acquisition. Recruiting is one of the hardest, most rewarding services offered by our practice, and I’ll always have a soft spot for it.

It is with this stated love for Talent Acquisition that I believe it’s time for some innovation when it comes to our recruiting strategy and talent planning. I propose an entirely new way to look at talent planning and the residual strategy for talent acquisition. We regularly look at open seats and plan a bench of identified talent to fill them, we sit with managers and listen to business plans and goals for the coming year and attempt to get ahead of the seat opening. None of this is wrong, and it’s tried-and-true for keeping just enough supply to keep your heads above water. At the end of the year, you go home for the holidays and plan to execute in that manner moving forward.

I suggest a more innovative approach, one which may be used to supplement that strategy for now, but inevitably it might become a larger driving vision for not just Talent Acquisition, but for the company overall.

Why not let the customer determine the recruiting strategy?

Now, hear me out. I’m not suggesting you put a random customer on the interview slate, nor am I saying that Susie X in your primary market should have the ultimate hiring decision over the manager. What I am saying is that we live in a world where our customers are more vocal than ever, and that if we listen to their feedback on what they like, what they don’t like, and what they need, we might find ourselves planning to meet or exceed their expectations, which would drive corporate productivity and profitability through the roof.

Still sounds crazy? How would we do this? Why would we do this? Simple: the customer is the ultimate judge of all our decisions, so why not use their own self-reported data to drive how we exceed their expectations?

Within the ranks of HR, we are often siloed by our tools and practices. We have internal data on our people, we gather market surveys for compensation and recruiting needs, benchmark our benefits against other companies, and generally scan through our company’s own performance. We might use job boards or other Gallup surveys and information to help us formulate HR solutions from an HR point of view. We take this information to our hiring managers and explain through our own lens to someone across the table who has a much larger stake in the overall corporate plan than we think we do why this myopic view of how to get them what they need will work. This, we say, is what our data says we should do.

How many times have you been met with resistance when approaching a problem this way? That scenario is what perpetuates the myth that HR is antiquated, that we don’t understand the business, and that we don’t speak the language of the business. If we use HR tools to solve bigger corporate problems repeatedly, we continually reinforce the stereotype that we couldn’t cut it outside our practice, that we’re only talented at HR-related tasks and that we don’t understand the corporation and the bigger picture.

I’m tired of that perspective. Aren’t you? Let’s try this from a different angle. Let innovate, get a bit creative.

Customer data is widely available: they call, post comments on products, communicate via social media, email, text – there is no end to how they will touch you and what they will say. Focus groups are effective, but essentially technology has given you the opportunity to synthesize their feedback daily. Gather that data, and add it to other points that might support your argument: sales information, financials, market projections, news articles.

Now you have a wide view of what that market looks like. Your customers are complaining that their packages arrive days late and that things arrive damaged? Supply chain needs a revamp. Are the clients going wild over a new product offering? You’ll need extra staff to meet that need and possibly look at what it will take to deliver ancillary needs or a new iteration of the product.

Even your competitor’s customers can help you strategize. Is your main competition not serving a particular market, and you know that the addition of some strategic headcount could meet that need? Go armed with that information. Is the conversation about carbon footprint and climate change going to eventually affect your operations? Source the best talent who can shift your strategy to a greener variety.

Essentially, the customer is always right, and they should always — ALWAYS — play into your strategic planning, which includes talent acquisition. As a matter of fact, recruiting should play a large part in leading that discussion since there can be no expansion or implementation of the strategy without the people in question. Get ahead of the conversation, and you’ll always be a part of it.

I strongly believe that talent acquisition has a powerful opportunity to innovate, to get ahead of the business and see the customer’s point of view. The individuals and businesses who consume your goods and services want their expectations exceeded, their lives easier and experiences which render your brand indispensable. Include them in your strategy. After all, they’re always right.