July 1, 2022

Workday Partner SIs vs. Independent Contractors: Why Choose One or the Other?

Workday is an on-demand enterprise management cloud software solution specializing in human capital management (HCM), financial management, and planning. Workday was dubbed the most popular HR app by the sixth Businesses @ Work report released in 2020, according to data from 7,400 Okta customers. Per Okta’s Chief People Officer Kristina Johnson, Workday ranked number two overall by number of users.

The software giant got its start in 2005 and quickly grew to be a leader in HCM, offering apps and tools to benefit many large organizations as well as influential small-medium enterprises worldwide. It’s been listed in the Businesses @ Work report for years due to its attractive “one-stop-shop” convenience. Workday’s real-time access to business planning, financial management, and HCM make it a coveted, all-in-one, well-rounded system—thus making it a savory skill for consultants to master. Doing so can inevitably boost one’s appeal in the IT/IS realm.

But Workday doesn’t make this an easy task. Not only is the training program itself challenging to pass, but to get certified on Workday, it’s required that you work as a Workday employee, a systems integrator employee, or as the employee of a company who’s deployed Workday. Additionally, in 2018, Workday announced that product implementation partners were no longer allowed to certify or use contractors to work on their products, with market experts believing the more stringent controls were in response to an increased demand for independent consultants in the IT space. In other words, they believe Workday was trying to eliminate the use of independents to force partnerships and remain exclusive.

According to one article, Workday contractors—many of whom were previous employees of Workday—accused the SaaS vendor of “manipulating the labor market and consulting rates by barring previously certified operatives who now work as independent contractors from the environment and thereby effectively creating a mechanism through which they can dictate access, salaries, and rates across the environment.” They even threatened to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor and the European Commission.

Though, as rigid as the rules are when it comes to Workday, it’s still possible to become or hire an independent consultant in the field—and it’s typically worth the extra effort.

Comparing Workday Partner SIs and Independent Consultants: How Do They Differ?

There are several differences between an SI consultant working for a Workday partner and an independent consultant with Workday knowledge and skills and market insight.

A key difference is that SI consultants are employed as full-time employees (FTE), working directly for their employer and performing tasks under that umbrella of employment. They may receive benefits, education, and training paid for by the Workday partner. They would be certified in a Workday product HCM, financials, and any other functional modules that Workday provides and the organization utilizes. Their employer can assign them multiple assignments simultaneously.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an easy determining factor of employee versus independent contractor is who pays the taxes. If you’re an employee, your employer generally withholds income taxes, social security taxes, and Medicare taxes and disburses those taxes directly to the IRS on your behalf. They will also pay unemployment tax on wages paid to you.

Independent contractors, though, typically handle tax withholdings on their own. These would be considered self-employment taxes, and all independent contractors are subject to them at a current rate of 15.3%. In most cases, you will also have allowable deductions to offset some of the expenses an employer would typically cover. An accountant or tax professional can help you handle your taxes appropriately.

Another way of determining your status as an employee or independent consultant is the degree of control the company has over an individual or the level of independence a person has over themselves to conduct business. “Common law rules” defined by the IRS cover the behavioral, financial, and relational aspects of doing business, such as:

  • Does the company have the right to control what the worker does and how they do it?
  • Does the company determine how the worker is paid?
  • Are expenses reimbursed?
  • Who provides the supplies needed to do the job?
  • Is the relationship contractual, and if so, what’s the extent of that contract?
  • Does the company provide the worker with certain benefits?
  • Is the work performed a key aspect of the business?
  • Will the relationship continue, and if so, under what terms?

Answering yes to some or all of these does not necessarily make you an employee. Instead, it’s important to view the relationship in its entirety, knowing that, generally, independent contractors have most of the control over their time, finances, projects, etc., while employees—or in this instance, SI consultants—are mainly directed and controlled by their employer, partnering with Workday.

Although independent consultants typically have more freedom, they have no allowable access to Workday partner resources. Once an FTE leaves Workday or an SI partner, they may or may not be certified in Workday systems or functionalities. One crucial difference between partner SIs and independent consultants is that when you’re working independently, Workday restricts your ability to get certified and inhibits you from receiving their continuing education and training on the software. Instead, you’ll have to receive continuing education as you work for various clients.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Independent consultants already have the core education and implementation methodology acquired from being an FTE. In addition, they have solid industry knowledge that is diverse, a heightened sense of risk management and best practices, they implement Workday using customer tools and in turn upskill customers’ administrators on how to manage their system so that the customer is self-sufficient once the IC’s assignment is complete. It takes special attention and skill to understand deployment from two different lenses.

In other words, to gain knowledge of Workday software or keep your Workday skillset relevant, you’ll need to continue service to clients utilizing Workday. Keep in mind that Workday updates its system two to three times each year. If you are employed by Workday or one of its partner companies, you’ll have access to updated online training programs to keep your certification. If you are an independent consultant, you’ll gain access to the latest content and updates through your client so that you are continuously aware. ICs may be the first to utilize the latest updates because they are on site. The knowledge gained and the immediate use of the solution allows them to truly understand how these features can best support their customer organizations, all the while training accordingly as you work in the field.

Choosing Between Workday SI Consulting and Independent Contracting: Who Does It Best?

When deciding whether to work with a Workday partner SI or independent consultant to optimize your Workday integration and experience, there are several pros and cons to choosing one or the other. Essentially, working with an SI has more restrictions with time and access to their help and expertise. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more personalized experience with a very comprehensive approach to your Workday implementation and introduction, then you should consider an independent consultant to complete the task.

Independent consultants:

  • Are continuously in the market
  • Are immersed in the client’s business
  • Are engaged and help lead your team to IT/IS success
  • Upskill your team through training without limitations
  • Offer best practices from various industries
  • Take their time—as much as the client wants or needs
  • Aren’t limited to a set number of updates to the system or demos they can provide to you
  • Follow your company’s guidelines for performance
  • Teach you how to maintain Workday
  • Maximize their contracted time to solely benefit you and your operations
  • Integrate the Workday system into your company culture with minimal disruptions
  • Care more about the results and outcomes of their work because their reputation is directly tied to it—their success at one job is how they get their next job
  • Must stay up to date on Workday trends and acquire significant and unique knowledge about everything Workday
  • Usually costs less and offers more support to provide you with a better understanding of what you purchased

Partner SIs or Workday employees:

  • Have a timeline they need to adhere to and will not divert from
  • Are there to ask you questions about where you want the system to take you or how you want it to benefit your operations
  • Are cut and dry about implementing exactly what you ask and not “thinking outside the box”
  • Don’t have time to upskill
  • Have one or two knowledge transfer sessions with you for about an hour
  • Have one or two demos to walk you through if they’re deploying you
  • Provide about two weeks of hyper care to your organization before checking out—very in and out, completing only what needs to be done to finish the monetary transaction and service exchange

Becoming a Workday Consultant: What Do I Need To Do?

If you’re hoping to gain certification, you must be an employee of Workday or join a customer or business that partners with Workday. Upon hiring, the partner company or customer will initiate the certification course for you based on your role within the organization and your current expertise. Your training will be paid for, but you must finish your certification within one month.

If you’re not looking for employment with Workday or one of its partner companies, the only other way to build your rapport using Workday software functions is to join a Workday customer organization so you can “learn while doing.” According to career guru Indeed, earning a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in human resource management, finance, information technology, or another related area of study is imperative. From there, gaining real-world experience within the field—working as a consultant or HR representative—can help you build your confidence, improve your skills, and acquire valuable knowledge that will benefit your career as an independent contractor.

Though, once again, if you want to complete your Workday certification, you’ll need to go through the Workday Core HCM training program and pass a multiple-choice test, which can only be done through a Workday partner company or Workday itself. Workday customers also have a variation of these trainings. So, when deciding to go the certification route, you’ll need to work as an employee before venturing on your own.

It’s important to note that your certification will expire after one year once you leave Workday or one of its partner companies. Workday customers can hire whomever they want as a contingent worker to provide them with skilled consulting services. Still, they would have to grant you access to the software system to deploy new functions, optimize current processes, write reports, handle integrations, and perform other technical Workday-related tasks.

Partnering For Success: How Can Oxford Help?

Finding the right talent quickly can sometimes present a challenge. Partnering with a consulting or staffing firm with the knowledge, expertise, and resources to meet your company’s Workday needs can ensure a seamless process for your staff augmentation or consulting experience.

Staffing partners:

  • Hire only qualified candidates, handling all pre-screening procedures for you so that you can merely enjoy the benefits of the high-caliber talent rather than suffer through the hours of scrutiny that accompany candidate selection
  • Allow you to determine whether your consultant is a fit for your company’s culture
  • Provide you with an opportunity to assess a candidate’s abilities before deciding their overall value and whether they’re an asset to your company or an appropriate fit within your culture
  • Offer guarantee periods to appropriately evaluate candidates’ performance, substituting with additional or alternative talent as needed
  • Help you to minimize your costs by eliminating the need to incur the high expense of internal recruitment, hiring, and training
  • Allow you instant access to a large pool of industry-specific, specialized, or niche talent
  • Accompany you throughout the process from the talent request to project completion, covering everything in between and essentially book-ending your experience

Additionally, if you’re looking to jumpstart your career as an independent Workday consultant, consider partnering with a company dedicated to helping you develop your skills and advance professionally. It’s better to work together to achieve optimal personal and business outcomes.

Quality. Commitment.

Whether you want to advance your business or your career, Oxford is here to help. With nearly 40 years’ experience, we know that a great partnership is key to success. Start a conversation today.