Workday HRIS in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

Our in-depth guide to Workday HRIS in 2024, covering its role in transforming HR management and business operations including through AI integrations.
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.
April 21, 2024
min read

Workday is a comprehensive, cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) system designed to streamline and enhance anything from hiring to payroll for some of the world's largest companies.

Workdays' approach, in theory, simplifies HR workflows and lays the foundation for a more strategic HR role in business development.

However, the platform is quite complex, so it does come with a steep learning curve.

Given the pace of today's business world, executives need a direct, to-the-point guide on why Workday HRIS matters without getting bogged down by complexity.

This article aims to level-set the essentials of Workday HRIS, emphasizing its role as a pivotal HR software in driving organizational efficiency and innovation.

I dove into all that's new about Workday in 2024, and in this executive guide, share what Workday HRIS is, its components, its pros and cons compared to competitors, and how it's embracing AI.

A bit of Background on Workday

Workday's initial years
Workday's initial years

Workday was founded in Workday was founded in 2005 by Dave Duffield and Aneel Bhusri to create a modern, user-friendly HRIS platform that would live in the cloud. (Saliently, Dave founded PeopleSoft, now a major competitor.)

Since its inception, Workday has gained a reputation for its robust functionality and innovative approach to HR management.

With a focus on user experience and continuous improvement, Workday became a trusted solution for organizations looking to streamline their HR processes and drive business success. But, just as much, a reputation for being difficult to use.

In the 19 years since founding, Workday grew to 65 million users and an annual revenue of $7.3 billion.

In 2023, Carl Eschenbach joined as co-CEO, taking over the CEO seat fully in 2024 as founder Dave Duffield moved into a president and product role. This change of leadership has also led to a more open Workday, with a focus on becoming a platform that other can build upon.

As the platform continued to evolve, users received ongoing updates and enhancements to ensure they are always at the forefront of HR technology.

Understanding Workday HRIS

Workday HRIS – Employee Side
Workday HRIS – Employee Side

Workday HRIS integrates various HR functions into a single system, enhancing data collection and interdepartmental sharing.

This HRIS software helps large companies maintain a centralized database for essential HR tasks such as absence management, benefits administration, and compensation management.

Beyond HR functions, Workday syncs to and from finance tools, allowing companies to see the economics of people practices, although less so than full ERP solution providers like SAP and Oracle.

Key Components of Workday HRIS include:

  1. Database Management: Centralizes employee data, facilitating easier access and management.
  2. Scheduling and Labor Optimization: Offers tools for accurate timesheet management and effective scheduling.
  3. Payroll and Workforce Management: Automates updates reflecting changes in tax laws or salaries, reducing manual workload.
  4. Talent Acquisition and Retention: Streamlines hiring and improves the onboarding process.
  5. Employee Interface: Provides a personalized experience for employees to manage their careers.
  6. Benefits Management: Ensures full visibility over employee benefits packages and enrollments.

Workday HRIS supports various worker types, including full-time, hourly, and contingent workers, and offers a range of HR solutions, such as Human Capital Management, Talent Management, People Analytics, and reporting.

This versatility and platform adaptability make Workday a preferred choice for enterprises looking to optimize workforce management. Indeed, Enlyft data shows that its biggest share of customers has annual revenues of over $1 billion. 

Enlyft Data on Workday customer revenue
Enlyft Data on Workday customer revenue

Workday HRIS vs HRMS vs HCM

A note on the terminology: while many refer to Workday as an HRIS, it's technically an HRMS or even an HCM.

To understand the differences, see our comprehensive guide to HRIS.

Key Features of Workday HRIS

Workday HRIS has comprehensive features designed to optimize human resource management.

Their employee management software offers several key functionalities that make Workday HRIS a solid choice for large organizations looking to centralize and enhance their HR operations.

Comprehensive Database and Workforce Management

Workday Workfoce Management
Workday Workfoce Management

Workday HRIS is a centralized hub for all employee data, significantly simplifying how internal teams manage and distribute HR information.

The platform supports advanced labor and scheduling optimization tools, including intelligent clock-in and clock-out software, making managing diverse employee types such as full-time, hourly, and contingent workers easier.

Additionally, the system's ability to streamline core HR processes, like payroll and workforce management, automatically reflects changes in tax laws or salaries, providing valuable analytics and insights.

Talent Management and Personalized Employee Experiences

Workday HRIS's talent management capabilities facilitate efficient hiring processes and improve the onboarding experience by ensuring uniform training across the organization.

Moreover, it offers a self-service interface that centralizes all HR data and employee requests into one platform, boosting employee engagement and productivity.

Workday HRIS is also tailored to provide personalized experiences that adapt to individual work styles, using machine learning to suggest tasks and curate learning opportunities.

Global Compliance and Skills-Based Talent Management

Workday Skills Management
Workday Skills Management

Workday HRIS also focuses on preparing for the future. It supports organizations in the evolving regulatory landscape, enabling them to operate locally while managing business globally.

The system empowers organizations to build a workforce ready for future challenges by facilitating skills-based talent management.

This includes comprehensive management of worker profiles encompassing work history, skills, and learning, helping employees proactively build their careers and align with organizational goals.

Workday HRIS versus The Competition

When comparing Workday HRIS to its competitors, it's crucial to consider its pricing, functionality, customer support, and ease of use.

  1. Pricing and Value for Money: Feedback on Workday HRIS's pricing is mixed. Some users feel it's reasonably priced given its robust features, while others find it overpriced compared to alternatives that offer more flexible pricing structures.
  2. Features and User Experience: While Workday HRIS is praised for its comprehensive features, some users find its interface less intuitive than competitors, which offers a more user-friendly mobile and online HR management and employee experience.
  3. Functionality Across Business Sizes: Workday HRIS is tailored for large companies and enterprises, leaving small and midsized businesses to look towards HRIS Software like ADP Workforce Now, which caters to a broader range of business sizes.

According to Gartner Peer Insights, Workday HRIS has been recognized for its user-friendly approach and strong customer support.

However, it's essential to note that other systems like Oracle HCM Cloud and SAP SuccessFactors also provide substantial support and advanced functionalities, which may be more suitable depending on specific business needs and the scale of operations.

Three major competitors stand out if you're looking at Workday:

Oracle HCM Cloud

Oracle HCM Cloud is a key competitor to Workday HRIS. It offers similar features and functionality but with a different pricing structure. Implementation fees for Oracle HCM Cloud are typically lower than Workday, making it a more cost-effective option for some organizations.

Additionally, Oracle HCM Cloud provides ongoing support through its helpdesk and account representatives, ensuring customers have the assistance they need throughout their HRIS journey.

SAP SuccessFactors

SAP SuccessFactors
SAP SuccessFactors

SAP SuccessFactors is another key competitor to Workday HRIS. It offers various features and functionality, including performance management, learning management, and employee engagement tools.

While its pricing structure may be similar to Workday, SAP SuccessFactors is known for its strong integration capabilities with other SAP modules, providing a seamless experience for organizations already using SAP software.

Additionally, SAP SuccessFactors offers ongoing support through their customer success teams, ensuring that organizations have the necessary resources to maximize the value of their HRIS implementation.

ADP Workforce Now

ADP Workforce Now is another key competitor to Workday HRIS.

It is known for its flexibility and ability to cater to businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises. ADP Workforce Now offers many features, including payroll management, time and attendance tracking, and benefits administration.

Additionally, ADP provides ongoing support through their dedicated customer service teams, ensuring organizations have the resources to manage their HRIS implementation effectively.

The User Experience

Workday User Experience (Skills Credentials)
Workday User Experience (Skills Credentials)

Workday HRIS is lauded for its intuitive design, scoring an impressive 4.4 out of 5 from over a thousand reviews in Gartner's peer reviews.

Users particularly appreciate the system's ease of use, which averages a 4 out of 5 rating.

This balance between functionality and user-friendliness underscores Workday's commitment to providing a seamless experience without sacrificing the depth of its features.

However, it's important to note that some users have encountered a learning curve, particularly with navigation and initial setup, which can be mitigated through the comprehensive training materials and guides.

The platform's modern interface is visually appealing and highly functional, especially for remote workers and executives on the go.

The mobile app enhances this experience by supporting features like FaceID and single sign-on, making it a robust tool for dynamic work environments.

Moreover, Workday's customer support is highly rated (4.5/5), reinforcing the service's reliability in promptly and efficiently addressing user concerns.

Despite its many strengths, Workday HRIS isn't without its challenges. Some users have reported minor issues, such as glitches with reporting hours and the inconvenience of requiring HR intervention for login resets.

Additionally, while the system offers powerful reporting capabilities that reduce the need for manual data manipulation in Excel, building these reports can be complex for some users.

Nonetheless, Workday continuously innovates, integrating the latest in AI and machine learning to enhance user interaction and automate more processes, ensuring the platform remains at the forefront of HR technology.

2024 Updates: A Focus on AI And Opening Up the Platform

Because Workday functions as a SaaS service, continuous upgrades and updates are expected.

Reporting from Workday's 2024 "Innovation Summit," HR Tech guru Josh Bersin highlights how many major updates in the coming year are about opening up the platform to integrate more apps for more industries and embrace AI.

At the Workday Innovation Summit, Workday showcased its transformative journey from a product-led company to a more dynamic, market-led platform, a shift led by new CEO Carl Eschenbach.

Historically, Workday has excelled by creating an integrated, cloud-native ERP system devoid of the complexities of traditional systems like those offered by Oracle or SAP.

Like Apple's "walled garden," this integration strategy propelled Workday to significant success, evidenced by its impressive growth and customer base. Bersin remarks that Eschenbach's leadership marks a pivotal change, pushing towards a more open and inclusive platform strategy that leverages partnerships and expands into diverse markets and applications.

Workday's evolution into a platform-centric approach is a strategic response to the diverse demands of modern enterprise needs, especially in HR and financial management.

Workday as a Platform (via Josh Bersin)
Workday as a Platform (via Josh Bersin)

The company is embracing a more flexible model to accommodate a variety of industry-specific applications and integrating AI to enhance user experience and functionality.

This includes partnerships with companies like Shiftwizard in healthcare and Kyriba in finance, which significantly departs from its previous, more closed ecosystem.

The move aims to position Workday not just as an ERP system but as a comprehensive platform that offers tailored solutions across various sectors.

AI strategy and new talent features were also significant themes at the summit. Workday introduced micro-LLMs tailored to individual enterprise data, enhancing task efficiency without compromising data privacy.

Furthermore, the expansion of its talent management capabilities, including integrating AI-driven tools like HiredScore for improved recruiting processes, underscores Workday's commitment to addressing the evolving needs of the modern workforce.

These initiatives reflect Workday's strategic pivot to maintain its market presence and drive future growth by adapting to the shifting landscape of enterprise software and customer expectations.

Workday and AI

As Bersin noted, AI is a huge priority for Workday in 2024.

This creates opportunities, as AI has been proven to drive productivity and work enjoyment significantly.

And, contrasting to many AI for HR platforms, Workday has a huge amount of data that it can build upon.

Bias is a key concern in AI recruiting and employee management. In a CNBC interview, Eschenbach said that being trained on the data of 65 million users (generating over 625 billion transactions annually) means that Workday can manage bias better:

"The output of your AI is only as good as the data you're putting into it in the data model when you think about Workday our data is highly curated it's 65 million users on a common platform and that's where we're training our AI model off of so it's very secure it's protected, highly curated so it's very different than do an AI where you're training off the internet so I think we are different in how we think about it." – Workday CEO Carl Eschenbach

Speaking to Forbes, Eschenbach also highlights that while regulation for AI is important, keeping room for innovation is still critical:

In the same interview, the Workday CEO also mentioned that the company has worked on AI for over ten years and is certainly not new to the scene.

Some of the AI features that Workday has announced include:

Job Description Generation

Workday has developed a feature that accelerates the creation of job descriptions. This tool enables the generation of detailed job descriptions in a significantly shorter time frame by utilizing data already stored within Workday.

Contract Analysis and Correction

This functionality facilitates faster and more accurate contract analysis by comparing newly signed contracts against existing records in Workday Financial Management and integrated CRM data. It aims to detect discrepancies early and suggest necessary corrections, potentially reducing downstream accounting errors.

Knowledge Management Article Creation

Workday's new capabilities streamline the creation of internal communication content. This feature helps reduce the time and effort traditionally required to disseminate company policies and updates by simplifying the process of drafting personalized knowledge articles.

Automated Collections Process

Workday has introduced a generative AI feature that automates the crafting of collection notices based on each account's specific circumstances. This tool is designed to optimize the collections process by improving efficiency in communications with overdue accounts.

Employee Growth Plan Creation

Workday AI Skills (via Josh Bersin)
Workday AI Skills (via Josh Bersin)

This tool assists managers in efficiently creating personalized growth plans for employees by utilizing data from performance reviews and other feedback mechanisms available within Workday. It is designed to facilitate more effective and personalized career development discussions.

Text-to-Code for App Development

The Developer Copilot feature in Workday Extend employs generative AI to translate natural language descriptions directly into application code. This integration is intended to enhance developer productivity and accelerate the deployment of custom applications within the Workday ecosystem.

Statement of Work Generation

To streamline service procurement processes, Workday's generative AI supports creating and refining statements of work and customizing clauses based on project specifics. This functionality is intended to save time and reduce the effort required to draft and negotiate these documents.

Conversational AI Enhancements

Workday is exploring enhancements in conversational AI to improve users' interactions with its platform. The focus is on making the user interface more intuitive through AI-driven summarization, search, and context maintenance capabilities.

As Josh Bersin's insights from the Workday Innovation Summit reveal, all these AI features are part of a strategic transformation at Workday towards a more open, platform-centric approach.

By implementing "micro-LLMs" trained on specific company data, Workday should further be able to offer more personalized and legally compliant AI features.

Workday Cost and Investment

Workday Cost and Investment
Workday Cost and Investment

Understanding the financial commitment is crucial when considering the adoption of Workday HRIS.

There are three major costs to include:

Subscription fees

Workday HRIS operates on a subscription basis, typically charging between $40 and $160 per employee per month, with annual fees usually starting from $300K to $800K.

Workday follows a Subscription (Software-As-A-Service) License, which includes updates and support, ensuring that businesses always have access to the latest functionalities without additional charges for upgrades.

This pricing model reflects Workday's comprehensive suite of services, encompassing everything from HR to financial management and operational planning.

Implementation cost

Additionally, companies pay up to a few million dollars to implement Workday, as many practices and workflows have to be reconfigured.

The guiding principle is that implementation fees are roughly 100% of the annual software fees.

This cost covers customizing the platform according to the organization’s needs, data migration, and integrating existing systems.

Ongoing support

Finally, Workday usually needs at least one full-time position in your company to support your teams, troubleshoot, and work with the Workday helpdesk or account representatives.

Budget royally for support functions in your business while also considering the additional fees Workday may charge for elevated levels of service and adjustments that need to be made after you switch to the platform.

Additional Financial Considerations

  • Mid-Market Focus: Recently, Workday removed the minimum annual cost requirement of $250K, making it more accessible to mid-sized companies. This strategic pricing adjustment aims to expand their market reach and accommodate the growing needs of smaller enterprises.
  • Cost Efficiency: Implementing Workday can seem expensive; however, the investment is justified by the substantial efficiencies and enhancements in organizational operations. Workday also offers new methodologies that potentially allow customers to go live with their HRIS within 3 to 4 months, significantly cutting down long-term implementation costs.


Workday Chat
Workday Chat

Workday HRIS stands out as a pivotal solution for modern HR challenges, offering scalability, data integration, and advanced talent management features that cater to the evolving needs of global organizations.

While significant, the investment in Workday HRIS can bring your organization efficiencies and strategic advantages that far outweigh initial costs, highlighting its importance in driving business innovation and operational excellence.

Many executives consider Workday HRIS a foundational platform for managing and enhancing their human capital management strategies, positioning their organizations for future success.


Below are the answers to the most common questions about Workday:

  1. Is Workday an HRIS system?Yes, Workday can be consider a comprehensive, cloud-based HRIS (Human Capital Management) system that integrates various HR functions, although a technically more correct term would be HRMS or HCM. For more, see our guide on HRIS meaning.
  2. What are the costs associated with using Workday? Workday charges a subscription fee ranging from $40 to $160 per employee per month, with annual fees starting from $300K to $800K. This is typically higher than other HR Software but appropriate for the types of enterprises using Workday.
  3. How does the implementation cost of Workday compare to the annual fees? Implementation fees for Workday are typically about 100% of the annual software fees, covering customization and integration.
  4. What support does Workday require from an organization after implementation? Organizations typically need at least one full-time position to support Workday operations, including troubleshooting and liaising with Workday representatives. This is different from other HRIS software but understandable for a platform as complex as Workday.
  5. What are the additional fees beyond subscription and implementation?Workday may charge extra for higher levels of service and adjustments needed after switching to the platform.

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