HR Software

Workday vs ADP - Which HRIS Should You Consider?

February 15, 2021
Brett Ungashick

There are so many HRIS vendors in the marketplace and it can be hard to know which options are best for your business. In this series, we will compare a number of leading options across a wide range of considerations. Today, we start with the two most famous brands in the HRIS industry - ADP and Workday.

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.

HRIS Matching App: Use OutSail's free HRIS matching tool to build your requirements and see which systems fit your needs best

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

Shopping for an HRIS? Work with an HRIS advisor to streamline your shortlisting, evaluations and selection - for free!

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.

Request a Pricing Comparison of Workday and ADP

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

Blog: How Long Does It Take to Implement a New HRIS

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.

Blog: How to Negotiate an HRIS Agreement

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Brett Ungashick
Brett is the founder of OutSail. He spent the early part of his career selling HR software before switching sides and going to work for the people buying the software.

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