The verdict is out on this one.  The vast majority of companies now manage a focal review cycle, while others may desire to eventually transition to a focal review cycle.  Typically, business growth supports the change from an anniversary to a focal review cycle.

Focal reviews, also referred to as common date reviews, continue to gain popularity.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of salary review cycle:

Focal (Common Date) Review Cycle

A focal salary review date is typically conducted at one, fixed date each year for all employees.  Occasionally, the process is managed by segmenting employee groups by different focal review dates (e.g., all executive officers = February 1; all employees = April 1).

Anniversary Review Cycle

In the annual review cycle, salary increases are typically managed on the one-year anniversary for each employee from date of hire or date in job.


Focal Review Date

So when is the best focal review date?  It is a good idea to consider the end of your business year and add two to four months as your focal review date.  If your business year ends on December 31, it might be effective to use a March 1 or April 1 focal review date.  This allows time for sales to end the business year, the assessment of year-end results, and roll out of the process after the New Year.  Management will also appreciate rolling out a focal review process for an organization after the New Year.

Prorated Increases – Year of Implementation

When transitioning from an anniversary review cycle to a focal review cycle, companies will frequently prorate salary increases during the year of implementation from the date of last review.  Sometimes the transition will require a proration over 100% when the last salary review is over 12 months.  Keep your proration formula simple for ease of administration.  As a best practice, avoid prorated increases over 125%.  A sample proration formula table follows:

Let’s use the table with a hypothetical example:

  • Emily was hired 1/15/2014 as an Accountant.
  • Her last increase was 1/15/2015.
  • Her company is planning to move to a focal review with an effective day of 03/01/2016.
  • Depending on the business implementation process, Emily may or may not be eligible for another increase until 03/01/2016.
  • If the company’s implementation process includes no 2016 increases until 03/01/2016, then Emily would be eligible for a salary review at that time, with a 14-month proration factor of 117%.
  • In this instance, a merit increase of 3% with a 14-month proration factor of 117% would then equal a 3.51% merit increase.


Depending on the size of the organization, the process to transition from an anniversary review cycle to a focal review cycle is time consuming and may require additional systems support.  The following timetable captures typical steps required during the year of implementation:

Successful Implementation

The following steps are essential to a successful implementation:

  • Collaborating with key stakeholders.
  • Working closely with Finance to assess and budget for the cost of transition and any business issues required to be managed.
  • Ensuring that top management approves the program and required expenditures.
  • Confirming that your system and/or worksheet accurately calculates and tracks the increases and costs against budget.
  • Checking that your workflow is accurate.
  • Keeping your Human Resources, Payroll, and Finance teams involved in key decisions made and plans for implementation.
  • Communicating well in advance to management so that required time is allocated to the process.
  • Confirming that there is a master communication plan to ensure timely management and employee communications.

Key to Success

Take the time to build a strong business case focusing on the impact to the business, management, and the employees.  Manage a well-designed process and timeline for a timely, effective focal review implementation.  Ensure ample, relevant messaging as you communicate to your stakeholders at each stage of the implementation.

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