CHRO Josh Gottesman Selected Among 2000 Applicants to Present at National HR Conference

26 Mar 2024

Our Chief Human Resources Officer Josh Gottesman’s personal mantra is, “Don’t just dream big, do big.”

It’s a motto he not only promotes on his LinkedIn profile, but one he actually lives by. Case in point: next month Josh will represent the OU as a featured presenter at the nationally-acclaimed Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Talent Conference & Expo 2024 in Las Vegas.

An association that governs everything HR in the US, SHRM is where Josh received his certification as a Senior Professional in the Society for Human Resources Management. One of about 80 featured speakers selected from a pool of approximately 2000 applicants, Josh views the opportunity as both a personal and organizational achievement. 

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to speak at the conference,” says Josh, who holds a BA in Psychology from Yeshiva University and an MBA in Industrial Organizational Psychology and HR Management from Baruch College. “Many presenters at the conference are HR vendors and consultants, and for me to be able to share my learning with other HR professionals is incredibly powerful. Being recognized by the greater HR world also validates our work at the OU. They want to hear from us about our activities and accomplishments.”

On April 15, Josh will present a session on “The Talent Common Denominator: How to Build a Talent Development Strategy that Lasts.” Participants will learn how to transform their talent development strategy by promoting their organizations’ foundational and transferable skills. 

As he explains, “Too often, talent development programs focus on what makes an organization’s positions unique. I believe that employers should focus instead on what they do 80% of the time, which is teaching skills and knowledge that can be applied to almost any job. For example, running a Jewish Student Union club through NCSY involves teaching Torah to public school teens. The emphasis for talent development and acquisition should not be on the Torah teaching element; it should be on transferable skills like public speaking, creating an educational curriculum, and customer service. Organizations that spend more time on the talent common denominator — what they share in common with other positions — will draw more employees because of their training programs.”

Born in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, Josh was raised in a home where community work and tzorchei tzibbur were paramount. His mom, Beth, is the Midwest Regional Director at AMIT, and his dad, Michael, serves part-time as the rabbi of Skokie Central Congregation, having also worked in nursing homes, education and pulpit positions for much of his career.

“I lived in an environment where my parents always helped out Klal Yisrael,” Josh says.It was ingrained in me to find a job that I believe in and am passionate about.” 

Josh found that passion at the OU, where he began his career in 2006. For the first eight years, he held various  positions at NCSY, including managerial roles. In 2012, while serving as NCSY’s director of American operations, Josh happened to meet then Senior OU Human Resources Officer Lenny Bessler on a TJJ (The Jerusalem Journey) program in Israel.

“Lenny invited me to reach out if I ever needed help navigating HR as a career,” recalls Josh.

In 2014 Josh, who was newly married and expecting his first child, reconnected with Lenny, who offered him a seven-week internship in the OU’s HR department. 

Almost 10 years and seven HR roles later, Josh now leads a team of 12 employees spanning the U.S., Canada and Israel. His work as CHRO includes providing strategic leadership and guidance to the organization by overseeing talent acquisition, career development, succession planning, retention, training, leadership development, compensation and benefits globally.

“I was passionate about positions the OU needed to fill, and they supported me,” Josh says. “I kept changing positions because I kept pushing the limits of what I could do. I kept mastering the role I was in and was able to grow into new ones. I’m driven to always be the best at what I’m doing.” 

The pursuit of excellence is a value Josh regularly imparts to his employees.

I constantly tell my team: ‘Every single day you come in, I want you to be the best that you can be. Whether you’re here with us for a day, a week, a month, or a year, it doesn’t matter. Right now is what matters.’ I try to lead by example and not just talk about it.”

As a husband and father of four kids under the age of 9, Josh appreciates the OU’s emphasis on work-life balance. He also values team members’ motivations to collaborate with, and assist one another, and to go beyond the requirements of their job descriptions.

“The culture at the OU is incredible,” Josh says. “It’s an energetic and engaged base of people who really care about the work they’re doing. They want to see it succeed and they also care about themselves. They want to grow, to learn, and to give to others. We’re constantly getting requests of, ‘How else could I help? What more can I do?’ You really feel it at our professional development trainings featuring presenters from various departments and industries. Employees are having real conversations about how they can help each other. The energy in the building is hard to replicate.”

Professional Development is prioritized at the OU, Josh says, because of the organization’s long term vision. 

“Investing in talent is so important. We want to help shape future leaders in nonprofit and klal work. The OU is the premier training ground, whether employees remain here or ultimately move on. We have the scope, responsibility, and ability to train employees, as well as experiences and projects that other organizations may lack. 

“Our goal is to get the best out of our employees every single day,” he continues. “It’s irresponsible of an organization to expect employees to be able to do that without providing them with resources. Someone who wishes to be a manager should be given the opportunity. What’s not okay is just plateauing and staying static. Even those who wish to be individual contributors in non-management positions can grow.” 

Josh says there is still much left to accomplish within the OU’s HR department, which recently hired an assistant director of talent development and the organization’s first talent acquisition manager. He is focused on reinforcing these and other HR developments, and building upon the success of the current framework. 

“We’ve expanded a lot over the past two years because the OU recognized the importance of investing in HR and people operation initiatives,” he says. “I must give hakaras hatov to Executive Vice Presidents Josh Joseph and Rabbi Moshe Hauer. From day one when they came in, they said, ‘We’re not doing enough for the employees from an HR perspective and we need to do more.’ Without them, without President Mitch Aeder and the board, none of this would happen.”

Reflecting on his career trajectory, Josh feels both fulfilled and proud to work at the OU.

“I wake up every day knowing that I’m helping people,” he says. “Not just because of my HR position, but because of what we do as an organization. The feeling of accomplishment in making an impact on others’ lives is something unique to klal work and to this organization. You can create that world in which you want to live, and in which you want to raise your children. It’s not just about ‘right now.’ It’s about the future.”