Workday API Integration Guide (In-Depth)

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Workday API Integration Guide (In-Depth)Workday API Integration Guide (In-Depth)

Workday unlocks a powerful HR ecosystem, but integrating it with your existing tools can be complex. endeavor. This guide empowers developers to navigate those challenges and unlock the full potential of Workday integrations.

Benefits of Workday API Integration: 

  • Streamlined Workflows: Automate data exchange, saving HR professionals valuable time and boosting efficiency.
  • Real-Time Business Insights: Gain access to a unified view of your data, enabling data-driven decisions for business leaders.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Integrate new applications as your needs evolve, ensuring your systems grow with your organization.

While this guide equips developers with the skills to build robust Workday integrations through clear explanations and practical examples, the benefits extend beyond the development team. You can also expand your HRIS integrations with the Workday API integration and automate tedious tasks like data entry, freeing up valuable time to focus on other important work. Business leaders gain access to real-time insights across their entire organization, empowering them to make data-driven decisions that drive growth and profitability. This guide empowers developers to build integrations that streamline HR workflows, unlock real-time data for leaders, and ultimately unlock Workday's full potential for your organization.

Overview of Workday

Ever wondered why Gartner named Workday  Leader for Cloud ERP for Service-Centric Enterprise and why top companies use it. Workday is a cloud-based enterprise management platform designed to simplify workforce management. From HR to Payroll to finance and analytics processes, all in one integrated system. Workday Integration API streamlines data exchange, enabling seamless integration between Workday and external systems.

Importance of Integrating with Workday

  1. Streamlined Processes: Manual data entry is a persistent challenge, but it can be very well tackled by Workday. It automates workflows, minimizes errors, and reduces manual data entry.
  2. Real-Time Data Sync: Real-time synchronization of data via integration helps improve decision-making.
  3. Enhanced Analytics and Reporting: Deeper insights into business performance is the heart of growth for an organization, which Workday can easily help you with.
  4. Scalability and Flexibility: Workday can scale with your needs, which allows easy addition of new features as per our requirements. 


The most basic requirement is to authenticate your Workday account. Proper authentication ensures secure and reliable access to Workday's APIs. 

To ensure a secure and reliable connection with Workday's APIs, this section outlines the essential prerequisites. These steps will lay the groundwork for a successful integration, enabling seamless data exchange and unlocking the full potential of Workday within your existing technological infrastructure.

  1. Workday Tenant Setup: Workday tenant (it is an instance of the Workday software) and its credentials such as name, username and password.
  2. API Access Configuration: Once the Workday tenant is set up, you will need to enable API access in it. It includes configuring API clients in workday system, appropriate security roles need to be assigned and also generating API Keys or tokens is necessary.
  3. OAuth 2.0 Authentication: Secured authentication is always necessary, therefore, Workday supports OAuth 2.0. You will just need to register your application in the Workday system to obtain client ID and client secret. Then just use these credentials to request access tokens, which are required for making API calls.

Preliminary Setup

Integrating with Workday requires a solid initial setup to ensure an easygoing process. Here are the steps:-

Setting Up a Developer Account with Workday

  1. Unlock Your Workday Resources: Sign up for a Worday developer account.
  2. Secure Your API Calls: Obtain API credentials (client ID & secret) to authenticate your application. Think of them as a secure handshake for API access.
  3. Define Granular Permissions: Create an Integration System User (ISU) within Workday Security. Assign this user the minimum permissions required to interact with the APIs your integration needs. This keeps things secure and avoids unauthorized access.
  4. Detailed Setup Steps: Refer to the "Implementation Guidelines" section for configuration instructions.

Overview of Workday API Documentation

1. API Types: Workday offers REST and SOAP APIs, which serve different purposes. REST APIs are commonly used for web-based integrations, while SOAP APIs are often utilized for complex transactions.

2. Endpoint Structure: You must familiarize yourself with the Workday API structure as each endpoint corresponds to a specific function. A common workday API example would be retrieving employee data or updating payroll information. You can find a comprehensive listing of the Workday API endpoints and directory here.

3. API Documentation: Workday API documentation provides a comprehensive overview of both REST and SOAP APIs. 

  • Workday REST API: The REST API allows developers to interact with Workday's services using standard HTTP methods. It is well-documented and provides a straightforward way to integrate with Workday.

  • Workday REST API Documentation: Workday's REST API documentation provides detailed information on using the API, including endpoints, parameters, and response formats. It is a valuable resource for developers looking to integrate with Workday.

  • Workday SOAP API Documentation: Workday's SOAP API documentation provides information on how to use the SOAP API for more complex transactions. SOAP APIs are often used for integrations that require a higher level of security and reliability.

  • Workday SOAP API Example: An example of using Workday's SOAP API could be retrieving employee information from Workday's HR system to update a payroll system. This example demonstrates the use of SOAP APIs for complex transactions.


Accessing Workday Sandbox

  1. Safe Testing: A sandbox creates a secure testing environment to avoid risks in production.
  2. Mimics Production: Configure the sandbox to mirror your real Workday environment with test data.
  3. Validates Integration: Test your integration's functionality within the sandbox, ensuring data exchange works as expected.
  4. Early Issue Detection: Identify and resolve any problems with your integration before impacting real data.
  5. Detailed Setup Steps: Refer to the "Setting Up and Using a Workday Sandbox" section for configuration instructions.

Important Terminology 

Understanding key terms is essential for effective integration with Workday. Let’s look upon few of them, that will be frequently used ahead - 

Workday Tenant: Imagine your Workday tenant as your company’s own secure vault within the workday system. It’s a self-contained environment, and it will contain all your company’s data and configuration. Companies typically have separate tenants for development, testing, and production.

Integration System User (ISU): An ISU is a user account in Workday specifically designed for integrations to access and manipulate data. Setting up an ISU involves creating the user, assigning security roles, and generating API credentials.

For more detailed information, you can refer to the official Workday documentation:

- Workday Tenant Overview

- Setting Up an ISU

Authentication and Authorization

Secure access in Workday integrations plays a crucial role in protecting sensitive employee and financial data. It ensures compliance with regulations and prevents unauthorized changes that could disrupt business functions. 

By implementing strong security measures, you safeguard data, adhere to legal standards, and maintain business stability.

To achieve this, follow these essential steps for your Workday integration: 

  1. Prep Your Workday Base: Ensure access to your Workday tenant, your company’s secured data zone.
  2. ISU : Create an ISU with specific permissions to access Workday APIs.
  3. Authentication : Use Workday’s built-in OAuth 2.0 to exchange credentials for an access token (your temporary pass) and get our ISU Username and Password.
  4. Test Playground (Sandbox): Develop and test your integration in the safe sandbox environment.
  5. Deployment (Production): Once tested, deploy to the production environment for real-world use.

Authentication Lingo:

Workday offers different authentication methods. Here, we'll focus on OAuth 2.0, a secure way for applications to gain access through an ISU (Integrated System User).  An ISU acts like a dedicated user account for your integration, eliminating the need to share individual user credentials.

Security Best Practices:

  1. Store Secrets Safely: Keep sensitive info like client secrets in environment variables, not in your code.
  2. Encryption is Key: Encrypting credentials for added protection is a must for integration.
  3. Rotate Regularly: Keep changing credentials periodically to reduce risk.
  4. Least Privilege: Assign the ISU only the minimum permissions needed.

SOAP vs. REST: Picking the Right Workday API for the Job

Choosing between SOAP and REST for your Workday integration can feel incredibly challenging. Let's break it down to help you decide:

The Structured Side: SOAP

  1. Security First: SOAP's rigid rules guarantee iron-clad reliability and top-notch security. Perfect for handling sensitive stuff like payroll.
  2. Extensible Powerhouse: Need extra security layers? SOAP's got your back with WS-Security. 
  3. Precise Communication: WSDL acts like a detailed contract, ensuring your app and Workday are always on the same page.

Working with SOAP:

  1. Grab the WSDL: This file is your roadmap to Workday's SOAP services, telling you everything available. You can find the WSDL documentation on the Workday community site.
  2. Craft Your Requests: Tools like SOAP UI let you send requests with authentication and data, following the WSDL specs.

The Flexible Friend: REST

  1. Simplicity is King: REST keeps things easy with standard HTTP verbs (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) you already know and love.
  2. Stateless Speed: No need to sweat past requests – each one has everything the server needs. Plus, REST is generally faster due to its lightweight design.
  3. JSON Advantage: Responses are typically in JSON, a human-readable format that your application can easily understand.

Working with REST:

  1. Talk HTTP: Use familiar HTTP methods to interact with Workday's resources.
  2. Hit the Endpoints: Access Workday's REST endpoints directly using their URLs. You can find the REST API documentation for your specific Workday version on the Workday community site.  Tools like Postman are great for testing requests.

Pick what you need : 

  1. Performance Matters: SOAP's complex structure can lead to slower speeds. For web applications, REST's lightweight design is a clear winner.
  2. Use Cases in Mind: High-security transactions and complex operations like payroll are a perfect fit for SOAP. For web apps and simple data access, REST is the way to go.

Use Cases:

  • SOAP: Best for scenarios requiring high security, transactional reliability, and complex operations (e.g., financial transactions, payroll).
  • REST: Ideal for web and mobile applications, simpler integrations, and scenarios needing quick, lightweight data access.

When you need a feature-rich environment that empowers developers for complex tasks, SOAP is the ideal choice (and the one I opted for in this guide).

Performing Basic Operations with Workday APIs

Let's proceed to utilize Workday HCM APIs effectively. We'll walk through creating a new employee and fetching a list of all employees – essential building blocks for your integration.

Constructing a SOAP Request Body

SOAP requests follow a specific format and use XML to structure the data. Here's an example of a SOAP request body to fetch employees using the Get Workers endpoint:








                <wsse:Username>{ISU USERNAME}</wsse:Username>

                <wsse:Password>{ISU PASSWORD}</wsse:Password>





        <bsvc:Get_Workers_Request xmlns:bsvc="urn:com.workday/bsvc" bsvc:version="v40.1">




SOAP requests use XML to structure data. They have a main envelope containing a header and a body. The header includes authentication details, while the body specifies the function being called (e.g., Get Workers) and any parameters it needs.

Creating a New Employee: Hire Employee API

Let's add a new team member. For this we will use the Hire Employee API! It lets you send employee details like name, job title, and salary to Workday. Here's a breakdown:

  1. What it Does: Adds a new employee to your Workday system.
  2. What it Needs: Employee details like name, job information.

Let's Code (cURL Example):

curl --location '{TENANT}/Staffing/v42.0' \

--header 'Content-Type: application/xml' \

--data-raw '<soapenv:Envelope xmlns:bsvc="urn:com.workday/bsvc" xmlns:soapenv="">













        <bsvc:Hire_Employee_Request bsvc:version="v42.0">












                                        <bsvc:ID bsvc:type="ISO_3166-1_Alpha-3_Code">USA</bsvc:ID>








                            <bsvc:Email_Address_Data bsvc:Delete="false" bsvc:Do_Not_Replace_All="true">


                                <bsvc:Usage_Data bsvc:Public="true">

                                    <bsvc:Type_Data bsvc:Primary="true">


                                            <bsvc:ID bsvc:type="Communication_Usage_Type_ID">WORK</bsvc:ID>









                    <bsvc:ID bsvc:type="Position_ID">P-SDE</bsvc:ID>








1. We use `curl` to send a POST request (because we're creating something new).

2. The URL points to the specific Workday endpoint for hiring employees.We include our tenant name in the URL to point the API to our corresponding tenant.

3. We include the ISU Username and Password in the <wsse:Security> header in the SOAP envelope to authenticate our API call

4. The `Content-Type` header specifies we're sending xml data.

5. The actual employee data goes in the request body, including details like first name, position, work email.



xmlns:bsvc="urn:com.workday/bsvc" bsvc:version="string">

<bsvc:Employee_Reference bsvc:Descriptor="string">

<bsvc:ID bsvc:type="ID">EMP123</bsvc:ID>



If everything goes well, you'll get a success message and the ID of the newly created employee!

Fetching All Employees: Get Workers API

Now, if you want to grab a list of all your existing employees. The Get Workers API is your friend!

  1. What it Does: Retrieves a list of all employees in your Workday system.
  2. What it Needs: Your ISU username and password
  3. Where it's Used: The Workday Get Workers API is part of the Workday Developer API suite, which allows developers to interact with Workday's Human Capital Management (HCM) system programmatically. These APIs are commonly used for integrating Workday data and functionality into other applications and systems.

Below is workday API get workers example: 

Let's Code (cURL Example):

curl --location '{TENANT}/Human_Resources/v40.1' \

--header 'Content-Type: application/xml' \

--data '<soapenv:Envelope












        <bsvc:Get_Workers_Request xmlns:bsvc="urn:com.workday/bsvc" bsvc:version="v40.1">












This is a simple GET request to the Get Workers endpoint. 


1. The URL points to the specific Workday endpoint for retrieving employees.We include our tenant name in the URL to point the API to our corresponding tenant.

2. We include the ISU Username and Password in the <wsse:Security> header in the SOAP envelope to authenticate our API call

3. The `Content-Type` header specifies we're sending xml data.

4. We include the Count and Page Number parameters in the request to paginate the results. This technique can be used to optimize the results so that we process a batch of data at once. 


<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>

<env:Envelope xmlns:env="">


        <wd:Get_Workers_Response xmlns:wd="urn:com.workday/bsvc" wd:version="v40.1">













                                    <wd:Name_Detail_Data wd:Formatted_Name="Logan McNeil" wd:Reporting_Name="McNeil, Logan">


                                            <wd:ID wd:type="WID">bc33aa3152ec42d4995f4791a106ed09</wd:ID>

                                            <wd:ID wd:type="ISO_3166-1_Alpha-2_Code">US</wd:ID>

                                            <wd:ID wd:type="ISO_3166-1_Alpha-3_Code">USA</wd:ID>

                                            <wd:ID wd:type="ISO_3166-1_Numeric-3_Code">840</wd:ID>








                                <wd:Address_Data wd:Effective_Date="2008-03-25" wd:Address_Format_Type="Basic" wd:Formatted_Address="42 Laurel Street&amp;#xa;San Francisco, CA 94118&amp;#xa;United States of America" wd:Defaulted_Business_Site_Address="0">


                                <wd:Phone_Data wd:Area_Code="415" wd:Phone_Number_Without_Area_Code="441-7842" wd:E164_Formatted_Phone="+14154417842" wd:Workday_Traditional_Formatted_Phone="+1 (415) 441-7842" wd:National_Formatted_Phone="(415) 441-7842" wd:International_Formatted_Phone="+1 415-441-7842" wd:Tenant_Formatted_Phone="+1 (415) 441-7842">








This JSON array gives you details of all your employees including details like the name, email, phone number and more.

Setting Up and Using a Workday Sandbox

To avoid risking any glitches in production, isn’t it amazing to first test our code on test data?  A sandbox is your safe zone to test your code before takeoff. As we already had a summarized view of the importance of using sandbox in our preliminary steps, let’s move to detailed steps to execute these steps.


  1. Request Your Sandbox:  Talk to your Workday admin and request a sandbox environment (specify the type you need).
  2. Prep Your Sandbox: Log in and configure your sandbox to mimic your production environment (company data, user roles).
  3. Create an ISU: In Security, create a special user (ISU) for your integration testing. Assign it the necessary permissions.
  4. Secure Your Calls: Register your application in the sandbox to get unique credentials (client ID & secret) for secure API calls.
  5. Test : Use tools like Postman to bombard your integration with test requests within the sandbox. Iron out any wrinkles before going live.
  6. Monitor & Debug: Keep an eye on your sandbox and use Workday logs to identify and fix any issues.

PECI: Streamline Your Workday Payroll

PECI (Payroll Effective Change Interface): lets you transmit employee data changes (like new hires, raises, or terminations) directly to your payroll provider, slashing manual work and errors. 



Web Services

Data Flow


Inbound and Outbound

Use Cases

READ (Employee data updates like new hires, raises or terminations)

CREATE, UPDATE, DELETE (Any CRUD operation on employee data)

Country Specificity

Up to 3 similar countries


Multi-Geography Support

Requires multiple PECI syncs (manual setup)

Single integration works for all geographies

Setup Complexity

Requires Workday expertise

Can be programmatic (easier setup)

Let's get started :-

  1. Enable PECI:  Talk to your Workday admin and get PECI activated for your tenant. 
  2. Set Up Your Payroll Provider:  Configure your external payroll system within Workday, including details and data transfer protocols.
  3. Define Your Data:  Identify the specific data your payroll provider needs (think employee details, compensation, etc.).
  4. Create an ISU: Just like other integrations, create a special user (ISU) with permissions to access and move payroll data.
  5. Transform Your Data:  Set up Workday to transform your data into the format your payroll provider expects. Think of it as translating languages!
  6. Schedule Transfers: Automate the process! Set up a schedule to regularly send payroll changes to your provider (e.g., daily or after each payroll run).
  7. Test It Out:  Before going live, use the Workday sandbox to thoroughly test the PECI integration. Make sure all changes get sent correctly.
  8. Monitor & Maintain: Keep an eye on things! Regularly monitor the integration and use Workday's reports to track data transfers and fix any errors.

Implementation Guidelines

Follow the detailed step-by-step process below to integrate with Workday.

Step-by-step Integration Process.

  1. Register for a Developer Account:  Sign up for a Workday developer account and get verified.
  2. Explore Workday's API Playground:  Get familiar with Workday API endpoints and resources. Download the API docs – they'll be your roadmap.
  3. Craft Your Integration System User (ISU):  Head to Workday Security and create a special ISU for your integration. Don't forget to assign it the permissions it needs to access the API.
  4. Secure Your Credentials:  Register your application within Workday to get a unique client ID and secret (like a secret handshake) for secure API calls.  Store these credentials safely!
  5. Go OAuth 2.0:  Set up OAuth 2.0 to securely connect your integration to Workday. Use your client ID and secret to obtain access tokens, which act as temporary passes for making API calls.
  6. Develop & Test Like a boss:  Use tools like Postman to test your API calls before going live.  Build your integration using the correct endpoints and data models. Make sure everything works as expected.
  7. Monitor & Maintain:  Keep an eye on your integration – implement logging and monitoring for API calls.  Review and update your integration settings as needed.

Security Matters:

  1. Craft Security Groups:  In Workday Security, create a security group specifically tailored for your integration.  Think of it as a club with specific access rules.
  2. Assign Permissions Wisely:  Add the necessary permissions to your security group.  Make sure your ISU has access to everything it needs, but nothing it doesn't.
  3. Set Up Security Policies:  Define security policies to control how data can be accessed and modified.  Assign these policies to your security group for an extra layer of protection.
  4. Activate & Audit:  Activate your newly defined security policies and regularly review their effectiveness.  Conduct security audits to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Common Hiccups & How to Fix Them:

  1. Facing Authentication Errors?  Double-check your OAuth setup – make sure your client ID, secret, and redirect URLs are all correct.
  2. Permission Denied?  Verify that your ISU has the necessary permissions and is assigned to the right security group.
  3. Data Not Matching Up?  Check your data mappings to ensure they align perfectly with Workday's data models.
  4. Fixing Your Issues:  If you run into authentication errors, adjust your OAuth configuration.  For permission issues, update permissions for the ISU and security groups.  And for data mismatches, correct your data transformations and mappings.

Common Pitfalls and Troubleshooting

Getting stuck with errors can be frustrating and time-consuming. Although many times we face errors that someone else has already faced, and to avoid giving in hours to handle such errors,We have put some common errors below and solutions to how you can handle them. 

Error Diffusion Toolkit:

  1. Authentication Woes: Error Message:  "Invalid client ID or secret."  Defuse:  Double-check your OAuth setup. Are your client ID, secret, and redirect URLs all correct?  Ensure your tokens aren't expired!
  2. Permission Denied: Error Message:  "Access denied!"  Defuse:  Verify your ISU has the right permissions. Check security group settings and policies. It might not have the key to the data vault!
  3. Data Mismatch Blues: Error Message:  "Incorrect or missing data fields."  Defuse:  Ensure your data mappings are on point and match Workday's data model. Validate your input data before making those API calls. Garbage in, garbage out!
  4. Rate Limiting Roadblock: Error Message:  "Whoa there! Too many requests!"  Defuse:  Implement throttling and retry logic in your integration. Respect Workday's API rate limits – don't be a data hog!

Pro Tips for Smooth Sailing:

  1. Log It All: Use detailed logs for API calls and responses. Logs are like breadcrumbs – they help you find your way back when you get lost. 
  2. Sandbox First: Always test in Workday's sandbox environment. Catch issues early on before your code goes live and wreaks havoc on real data.
  3. Monitor Your Performance: Keep an eye on your integration's performance. Use monitoring tools to track API response times and error rates. Don't let errors become silent assassins!
  4. The Power of Community: Connect with the Workday developer community. Forums and user groups can be lifesavers – share your war stories and learn from others' battles.

How can Knit help you with Workday Integration?

We know you're here to conquer Workday integrations, and at Knit (rated #1 for ease of use as of 2024!), we're here to help! Over 9,500 organizations have already used Knit for Workday integrations. Knit, as a unified HRIS API, ensures a high ROI for companies that seek to integrate their diverse HRIS applications to make their HR processes effective without sinking their organizational budgets.

Why Knit? We Speak Your Language:

  1. Unified APIs: Our APIs are like a Rosetta Stone for Workday – perform multiple integrations with just one set. Less code, less complexity, happy developer!
  2. Developer Friendly: We make things easy. Our APIs are clear, concise, and well-documented. No wrestling with cryptic instructions here.
  3. Rock-Solid Reliability: Robust error handling and comprehensive documentation ensure a smooth integration experience. We've got your back!
  4. Support When You Need It: Our crack support team is here to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot any issues. 
  5. Unified Integration Platform: We handle both SOAP and REST APIs, so you don't have to worry about the underlying protocol. Knit takes care of the complexities, allowing you to focus on building your integration


A. Key Terms

  • API:  Lets applications talk to Workday (RESTful or SOAP).
  • Authentication: Verifies you're who you say you are (login).
  • Authorization: Grants access to specific Workday data (permissions).
  • Client ID & Secret:  Uniquely identify your application (secure handshake).
  • Data Model:  Structure of Workday data (like fields in a form).
  • Endpoint:  Specific URL to access Workday functions (like a door to a room).
  • ISU:  Special user for integrations (low access, high security).
  • OAuth 2.0:  Secure way to get temporary access tokens (like a one-time pass).
  • REST API:  Flexible API using regular commands (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE).
  • Sandbox:  Test environment with dummy data (safe zone for experimentation).
  • SOAP API:  Structured API using XML (more complex, more secure).
  • Token:  Temporary permission to access Workday (like a short-term pass).
  • Workday Tenant:  Your company's secure space within Workday (separate for dev, test, production).

B. Sample Code

  • Adapted from Workday API documentation. Remember to replace placeholders like "your_workday_tenant", "isu_username", “isu_password” with your actual details. For comprehensive API reference and code samples, visit the Workday Developer Center