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This CEO uses an unconventional exercise to teach his employees about teamwork

Chieh Huang, founder and CEO of Boxed.
Source: Boxed
Chieh Huang, founder and CEO of Boxed.

When you start a job at Boxed, the $100-million startup that ships household items in bulk by mail, orientation involves a task some may not have expected.

Whether you're a new software engineer, marketing assistant, C-suite level executive or anyone else who usually works at a desk, you're sent out to work a shift at the company's fulfillment center. CEO and co-founder Chieh Huang, who used to tape boxes himself, insists on it.

"My management style is one of inclusion," Huang told CNBC Make It at CNBC's iConic conference in New York, "meaning we're all one team no matter if you're making an hourly wage at the fulfillment center floor, if you're a C-staffer from a public company."

Employees are scheduled for a shift helping pack boxes, track orders and oversee machinery alongside fulfillment center employees, and the visiting employees don't receive special treatment, the CEO says.

While Boxed wouldn't disclose salary information for its fulfillment center employees, a representative said the company offers a "competitive rate" and full-time workers receive benefits including a 401(k) and stock options. They also get access to one perk for which the company has become famous: funding for your wedding or tuition assistance for your child.

The orientation helps employees a sense of team unity and respect, Huang says.

It also gives workers at every level of the company an idea of how the business works, so that everyone is more knowledgeable about what can and can't realistically be done.

After founding Boxed in 2013, Huang worked in the fulfillment center when he wasn't handling strategy.

"Working at a fulfillment center is definitely not the most glamorous job," he says. "I know because in the early days, that's what I did, day in and day out. I had a tape gun in my hand and I taped boxes."

Though the company automated much of its fulfillment operations, it says no employee has lost their job as a result.

"It's hard work," he says. "Our company couldn't function without those folks, and that's why we definitely make sure that everyone knows how to do it and that we're still one team."

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