Carol Ann Solberg, the vice president of information technology at Charter Bank in Eau Claire, knew something special was happening when she heard employees in the lunchroom talking about the recent training sessions.

The 60 employees at Eau Claire’s largest bank had been taking classes in Microsoft’s Outlook, Word and Excel programs through Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC) Business & Industry (B&I) Services, taught by Suzanne Blau.

“They were talking about the class and wanted to know if others understood about the tabs and tables,” Solberg said. “That you could walk into the lunchroom and hear people talking about the classes is a compliment to Suzanne. She is an excellent teacher.”

Solberg counts employees coming together and communicating as one of the major benefits of the training, which is designed to sharpen skills in use of business technology.

Virtually all businesses use software that is essential to their operations. Managers know there is always a learning curve when new employees need to learn unfamiliar programs, and an even bigger learning curve when new software is introduced at a workplace. Often people get along just knowing the minimum.

“The problem with software applications is there is always variation in the levels of skills,” Blau said. “Many people are self-taught and there are things they don’t know and they don’t know they don’t know them.”

Workers are commonly not getting the most out of the software they use on a daily basis. CVTC’s B&I Services can help with that, as Blau did at Charter Bank.

“We had been thinking about it for some time,” Solberg said. “And (Charter Bank President) Paul Kohler is a big advocate of training.”

For Charter Bank, it started with Microsoft Outlook, a program for email and much more.

“You’d be surprised at how many people didn’t know what it offers,” Solberg said. “A lot of them didn’t know about the calendar function. That helped a lot of them.”

The employees moved on to Microsoft Word. “We do quite a lot with Word,” Solberg said. “Word is used a lot in correspondence with customers and notes in files, or you can write up a letter and paste it in an email.”

“Word is not a hard program to learn, but there are a lot of functions,” Blau said. “Different groups of employees — sales, administrative, tellers — each have different needs in the program.”

That’s where communication between the employer and instructor is invaluable. Instructors in CVTC’s B&I Services customize their training programs to the needs of the client.

“Carol Ann gave me a list of things she wanted me to cover,” Blau said.

“She sent us what they offered and we picked out what we needed,” Solberg said.

Customization for certain employees at Charter was particularly useful in the class on Excel. A spreadsheet program, Excel is absolutely essential in a banking setting, and Solberg said Charter has some very heavy users of Excel — as well as some who use it only occasionally or on a limited basis. Solberg said she is looking into advanced Excel training for the heavy users as a follow-up.

But what has taken place already is making a difference at Charter Bank, including in the relationships between employees.

“What was really neat to me was seeing our people working together. People’s greatest resource is the people sitting next to them,” Solberg said.

The classes brought together people from different areas that may not normally communicate much with each other, all working together to improve their skills, and with classroom work spilling over into the lunchroom.

The sessions leave the workers with more knowledge and feeling better about one another and the organization.

“It says a lot about an organization that they want to invest in their employees,” Solberg said.

For more information on business technology and other training programs, contact CVTC’s B&I team at 800-547-CVTC, ext. 4676, or send an email message to