ADP vs. Workday: Which is Best for your Business?

When it comes to the vast market of HR software solutions, ADP and Workday are undoubtedly two of the leading names that first come to mind. Both platforms have a vast suite of services that can streamline payroll, HR processes, and human capital management (HCM). But, what really separates these two giants? Is there any incentive to choose one over the other? And should you even consider them to begin with?

We’re here to answer all your questions. But first, here’s a quick overview of their pros, cons, and key differences.

How they compare


ADP is one of the largest and oldest payroll and HR vendors in the market. It’s known for being one of the best at payroll and HR analytics, especially when it comes to small to medium-sized businesses.


  • Extremely scalable to most business sizes
  • Wide range of features and products synced together, only requiring a single sign-on
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Reliable and fast payroll for small businesses
  • Extensive HR reporting and analytics for larger businesses
  • Automatic tax filing and reporting


  • Overly complex features paired with outdated UI might intimidate end users
  • Tedious implementation process
  • Charges per pay run
  • Additional fees for many add-ons and services like tax filing and W2 generation


Workday is a large-scale HCM suite specializing in HRIS, payroll, talent, and financial management.


  • Strong employee self-service and engagement features
  • Large-scale human capital management tools
  • Great for recruiting, complete with superior talent management analytics and onboarding functionality
  • Intuitive data visualization
  • Extensive third party integration capabilities
  • Wide array of solutions from payroll management to student information systems, perfect for large organizations seeking an all-in-one solution.


  • Generally one of the more expensive options on the market
  • Long training and adjustment time to the platform
  • Limited employee scheduling capabilities
  • Complex feature suite that may be intimidating for smaller businesses
  • Added cost for Workday group training

Both platforms cater to different business needs and industries, but ADP has the edge when it comes to small business payroll and HR with its wildly popular RUN solution. Meanwhile, Workday is more suitable for 1,000+ staff companies with its extensive data analytics, enterprise payroll suite, employee management tools, and onboarding solutions.

Pricing for Workday and ADP are quote-based, so you need to contact their sales teams directly for an estimate.

ADP: Scalable HR management for payroll and tax filing

ADP     |     User Reviews

ADP is one of the largest HR, payroll and tax filing solution providers in the market. With different plans built for varying company sizes, ADP can be tailored to nearly any business niche. And for companies looking for a scalable payroll solution, ADP is one of the best choices.

ADP offers the following plans:

  • ADP RUN - HR and payroll for small businesses
  • ADP Workforce Now - HR and payroll for small to medium-sized businesses
  • ADP Vantage - HCM and payroll for enterprise clients

ADP has plans for different business sizes, but most choose it due to the success of ADP Workforce Now with mid-market healthcare and IT companies. It has significant key benefits around payroll and HR, but it also has limitations around employee scheduling and labor forecasting.

Features and benefits of ADP

Much of ADP’s strengths come from its scalability and speed when it comes to payroll processing. Here’s a closer look at some of its top features and functionality.

Robust payroll capabilities

Even in its most basic form, ADP’s payroll capabilities go above and beyond that of other comparable platforms. You can seamlessly run payroll from any device, including your phone, paying your employees by either direct deposit or check.

Advanced benefits administration

ADP excels at insurance and benefits management. The system can also generate benefits-related reports, providing insights on what works and needs improvement.

Wage & hour compliance tools

ADP is a strong payroll platform because of its airtight compliance engine, which helps organizations stay on top of ever-changing labor rules and make sure that staff receive accurate pay. It significantly streamlines payroll because compliance is mostly automated only a small amount of admin work.

Scalable system

It is easy to add on features and modules as your business grows. For example, you could start with ADP RUN with under 49 employees, then a few years down the line, scale up to ADP Workforce Now for more advanced features like talent acquisition and performance management. Alternatively, you could even scale down to ADP Roll for just the basics like payroll and tax filing.

HR consulting services

Aside from HR and payroll tools, ADP offers HR consulting services. This is particularly helpful if you need to evaluate your current HR policies and practices.

What are the negatives of ADP?

ADP is undoubtedly a good HR and payroll management system, but some usability issues keep it from becoming a truly silver bullet platform, especially when it comes to more advanced workforce management.

Bare-bones employee scheduling

ADP has some form of employee scheduling functionality but is less advanced, especially if you have a scaling business. Hourly and frontline teams with more dynamic and complex staffing requirements may find ADP’s scheduling tool lacking.

Furthermore, ADP does not validate employee schedules. This means employees can get accidentally scheduled for shifts they are not qualified for. The platform also finds it difficult to handle multiple locations, differentiating pay rates, shift swaps, and more.

Limited labor forecasting

Like its employee scheduling tool, ADP’s labor forecasting is also limited. For larger businesses that place a large emphasis on the way they anticipate demand levels and distribute labor, these can be a big red flag. While ADP use historical sales data to paint a vague picture of future demand, it fails to account for other crucial factors such as weather, economic trends, foot traffic, and more.

Tedious report building

HRIS reporting depth is one of ADP’s strengths, but what pulls it back is the difficulty of setting this functionality up. It isn’t very easy to the point that it can drive users to resort to manual workarounds. This can be counterproductive, especially if you want to quickly act on your numbers and data.

Complex multi-pay rate assignments

Assigning different pay rates should be a straightforward task, but it’s challenging to do so within ADP, especially for staff that work multiple roles at different pay rates. Users also mention in reviews that to even begin setting up this complicated feature, you need admin access, but every admin seat incurs an additional charge.

Difficult PTO management

Staying on top of PTO should be straightforward, but that isn’t always the case with ADP. Employees and managers often find it challenging to manage leave within the platform. Users report difficulty viewing leave balances on the platform, and admins are also unable to print a calendar view of upcoming employee leave. These limitations significantly impact user self-service and increase the risk of PTO requests falling through the cracks.

Clunky UI

Ease of use is also another issue within ADP. Users encounter navigation challenges with the platform’s layout. Because it’s not as intuitive as other platforms, it can slow operations and delay adoption.

Workday: Robust enterprise HCM

Workday     |     User Reviews

Workday is an cloud-based HCM platform that offers a vast product line covering areas like payroll, HRIS, talent management, finance, and education.

Large enterprise organizations typically use Workday as an all-in-one system for human capital management. It is perhaps most well known for its compensation management and talent planning modules. However, businesses with under 1,000 staff may find Workday’s complex product suite intimidating and unnecessary for their more straightforward HR and payroll needs.

Features & benefits of Workday

Workday is considered one of the premier HCM systems on the market, and for good reason. Here are some of the key functionalities that make it a top choice for large enterprise organizations.

Solid HR management tools

Workday has an extensive suite of tools for human resource management. It offers an all-in-one model for HR admin, talent management, learning management, applicant tracking, and payroll.

Workday’s HCM suite eliminates admin tasks so that organizations can focus more on strategic tasks around talent strategy and employee experience. It also provides visibility into skills and capabilities within an organization’s talent pool, which equips leaders with insights on when to train, develop, or source new talent.

Easy integrations

Integrating third-party systems with an HCM like Workday tends to be a difficult process for most businesses. The good news is that this is typically not an issue you’ll encounter with Workday. Compared to other SaaS platforms, it is actually quite easy to integrate Workday with other systems. This is especially true when it comes to scheduling and time tracking platforms - Workday users find the most success with these integrations.

Even if a full API integration isn’t available, it only takes a few formatting tweaks with your account manager to get data like timesheets and payroll reports importing and exporting efficiently.

Comprehensive employee engagement tools

Workday prides itself on employee self-service and engagement features. Staff can access and edit their own personal information, view payslips and tax documents, access accumulated wages with on-demand pay, and share feedback with co-workers to further hone their skills.

Talent oversight for managers and executives

Workday offers strong people analytics that provide executives with granular data on employee performance and talent pools. Its performance management module gives insight into where coaching and development is needed, when and where organizational goals are met, and what kind of labor gaps need to be addressed.

Managers also have an overview of role changes, new hires, and promotions. In addition, updating information such as salary and teams is straightforward.

Easy and full control over payroll

Workday has an agile calculation engine that automatically computes earnings, deductions, and accumulations. It also provides real-time visibility into your general ledger, automated tax updates, audits and flexible payment options.

Employee self-service for payroll-related transactions is streamlined, such as viewing pay slips, processing pay on-demand, and accessing tax documents.

What are the negatives of Workday?

Workday is undoubtedly a top HCM platform, but due to its expansive, all-in-one nature, it sometimes stretches itself too thin, revealing limitations in key areas like workforce management.

Limitations with scheduling

Workday is an HR platform first and foremost - employee scheduling was only recently added as a new feature. While it can indeed do basic scheduling, it needs crucial features like AI-assisted labor forecasting to truly make it viable for 1,000+ staff organizations.

Long training and adoption time

Workday requires a steep learning curve and may take users a while to get the hang of using the system. To maximize the system, users need sufficient training, which can delay full adoption and ROI.

Overly-complex feature suite for small businesses

Workday has many features and functionality, sometimes to a detriment. Due to this scope, it has the tendency to complicate what should otherwise be simple tasks. For example, user reviews mention that timesheet approvals and employee onboarding can be challenging, especially for smaller businesses that don’t require such exhaustive functionality.

High cost

Workday is one of the more expensive options in the market, and it may not be the most economical option for smaller organizations. On top of the initial cost, businesses may need to pay more for complete functionality, with many add-ons, updates, and training courses all requiring additional charges. This isn’t the case with other systems, where you get complete access to all features and subsequent updates at one price. Specialized platform for workforce management

Where ADP and Workday lack in workforce management, excels. As a workforce management specific platform, it is the perfect complementary platform for both ADP and Workday. offers industry leading employee scheduling, time and attendance, and labor forecasting, standing in for where the other two platforms fall short.

Here are some critical functionalities of that enables you to create a seamless workflow between HCM, payroll, and workforce management:

Powerful labor forecasting goes beyond the level of forecasting that ADP and Workday provide. More than historical sales data,’s labor forecasting is robust enough to include crucial factors that affect demand. To staff the optimal number of employees every day, throughout the day, it looks at economic trends, weather, foot traffic, and scheduled appointments, to name a few.

Faster payroll processing tracks and records employee time accurately, significantly speeding up payroll and reducing tedious admin time. You can also auto-approve timesheets in bulk and quickly scan through wage and hour discrepancies, catching errors before they reach payroll.

Powerful integrations further streamlines how you schedule and track employee time when paired with systems like ADP and Workday. has an open API, which means that it can easily pull in employee data like leave balances, job IDs, teams, and pay rates from your existing HRIS system.

Advanced scheduling and time tracking

Employee scheduling and time and attendance coexist in a single platform, so managers can easily see actual versus scheduled wage costs in real-time. It’s easy to track time variances, SPLH, and overtime. In addition, a live time clock feed allows them to monitor attendance across multiple locations. Should there be last-minute scheduling adjustments, managers can offer free shifts to qualified staff. also has a mobile app where managers and employees can stay on top of schedules, shift swaps, and leave.

Air-tight labor compliance ensures you stay compliant with federal and state-based regulations such as overtime calculations and rest break standards. Furthermore, compliance is guaranteed every step of the way as the platform flags potential labor violations on schedules and timesheets.


ADP and Workday are both solid options for HR, HCM, and payroll. However, ADP is best for mid-market companies, while Workday is more suitable for enterprises with large-scale HCM needs.

But while both ADP and Workday are robust in their own rights, they have critical limitations around employee scheduling and time tracking. To create a truly efficient system, it’s best to pair either platform with a specialized workforce management solution like

What kind of ROI can you expect?

Before you make any investment in software, you need to have an understanding of the kind of return your organization expects. The ROI from workforce management software is clear, and when paired with a powerful system like Workday or ADP, you really cannot go wrong.

Building a Business Case for WFM

See what Forrester Research consultant Nick Ferrif has to say about the ROI you can expect from workforce management technology.

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