Workday vs ADP - Which HRIS Should You Consider?

Get the ultimate comparison between Workday and ADP, two leading platforms in the realm of human capital management. Uncover the distinctive features, strengths, and weaknesses of each system to make an informed decision

Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
July 4, 2023
User comparing Workday and competitor

If you work in HR at a Mid-Enterprise company (500-5,000 employees), chances are you have received sales outreach from a variety of different HRIS providers.

Most individuals don't have enough time in their day to research all of these platforms and stay up-to-date on the latest product updates and market trends.

Looking for hard-to-find HRIS pricing data? Get precise estimates with our app.

To save you the time of researching, demoing and being sold to, we wanted to provide a quick comparison of two of the most prominent platforms in the Mid-Enterprise Segment: Workday and ADP.


  • Founded in 2005
  • Headquarters in Pleasanton, CA
  • ~15,000 employees


  • Founded in 1949
  • Headquarters in Roseland, NJ
  • ~64,000 employees

Best Front-End Interface

Workday. Workday came to market in 2005 as the first cloud-native HRIS system. While many of their peers were migrating their system from on-premise mainframes to the cloud, Workday was building in the cloud from the get-go, allowing them to design a more responsive and mobile-friendly platform from the ground up. Workday continues to prioritize a smart, simple user interface in their platform, despite the very robust capabilities that are beneath the system's surface.

Best for Core HR

ADP. When it comes to Core HR (payroll / time / benefits), the best software is the one that can automate data transfer, create continuous, real-time calculations and avert errors before they happen. ADP has been the market leader in the payroll & tax space for many decades and their reliability here is second to none. In fact, a large portion of the Workday customer base opts to use ADP's payroll module, due to their market expertise.

Most Scalable

Workday. While both of these companies have clients in the Fortune 500, Workday has far and away the largest percentage of the Fortune 500. What differentiates Workday from the other groups on this list is how customizable the system is. Nearly every part of Workday's system can be reconfigured to meet a client's need. With the other vendors, some configuration is possible, but other parts of the system are set-in-stone.

Easiest to Implement

ADP . One advantage of not having 100% configurability, like Workday offers, is that a large part of ADP's system is pre-configured with best practices built-in, which can expedite the implementation process. ADP has some of the fastest go-live times out of the mid-enterprise segment and provides a number of best practices through the implementation process

Best Back-End Capabilities

Workday. Workday is a unified systems at the database level. When Workday does make acquisitions, they rebuild those software platforms from the ground up, so they aren't just bolted on to their system. This unified database leads to better security, more admin efficiency and greater accuracy with data calculations.

Best for Managed Services

ADP. ADP offers a unique set of services called "Comprehensive Services" which allow companies to not just purchase their HR software, but to also pay ADP to outsource key processes. For companies that are rolling out of a PEO, understaffed or focused on more strategic initiatives, ADP can manage payroll processing, benefits enrollment and compliance management.

Best for Global Companies

Workday. Workday has the highest percentage of international companies in their customer base and is designed to support large, multinational organizations. However, Workday does not currently own their own global payroll solution. ADP has the highest total number of global companies in their customer base and owns Celergo, a leading global payroll provider.

Most Cost-Effective

ADP. From a cost standpoint, ADP is significantly less expensive than Workday. ADP's average PEPM pricing for a mid-sized company is around ~20-25 PEPM. The same company can likely expect to pay ~$45-55 PEPM with Workday. Additionally, ADP's implementations are usually a small fraction of the annual software fees, while Workday's implementations can often cost more than the 1st year software fees.

1. What is the difference between Workday and ADP?

Workday and ADP are both leading platforms in the realm of human capital management, but they differ in various aspects such as their founding years, headquarters locations, employee count, and key features. Workday is known for its cloud-native HRIS system with a strong front-end interface, scalability, and backend capabilities, while ADP excels in core HR functionalities like payroll, time, and benefits management, offering ease of implementation and cost-effectiveness.

2. Which platform has the best front-end interface?

Workday is recognized for having the best front-end interface among the two platforms. As a cloud-native HRIS system, Workday prioritizes user experience by offering a smart, simple, and mobile-friendly interface designed from the ground up.

3. Which platform is best for core HR functionalities?

ADP is considered the best platform for core HR functionalities, especially payroll, time, and benefits management. With decades of experience in the payroll and tax space, ADP offers reliability, automation, real-time calculations, and error prevention in core HR processes.

4. Which platform is more scalable?

Workday is known to be more scalable than ADP, particularly for large and multinational organizations. With a larger percentage of Fortune 500 companies in its customer base, Workday offers high scalability and customizability to meet diverse client needs.

5. Which platform is easiest to implement?

ADP is regarded as the easiest platform to implement, thanks to its pre-configured system with built-in best practices. ADP's implementation process is known for its speed, efficiency, and provision of best practices throughout the implementation journey.

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Meet the Author

Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
Brett Ungashick, the friendly face behind OutSail, started his career at LinkedIn, selling HR software. This experience sparked an idea, leading him to create OutSail in 2018. Based in Denver, OutSail simplifies the HR software selection process, and Brett's hands-on approach has already helped over 1,000 companies, including SalesLoft, Hudl and DoorDash. He's a go-to guy for all things HR Tech, supporting companies in every industry and across 20+ countries. When he's not demystifying HR tech, you'll find Brett enjoying a round of golf or skiing down Colorado's slopes, always happy to chat about work or play.

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