Hayes told AFL.com.au the Hawks had set an elite standard in Saturday's game that the Saints hoped to eventually emulate.
"We'll learn from it, we want to get to where they are and that's what we'll look at long term as a group," Hayes said.
"We've got to be as good as they were today, we got taught a lesson.
"They applied really good pressure and we didn't handle it. We've got to get a lot better at that."
"We can't accept it. If you don't learn from it, it's a waste.
"So we'll review it really strongly and move on."
Hayes debuted in 1999 and, before enjoying an extended run of finals success from 2004-10, was on the end of some fearful thrashings from 2000-2002 when the Saints did not finish better than second last on the ladder.
Just as he and contemporaries like Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna learnt from those losses, Hayes is confident the Saints' present bunch of youngsters will learn from the Hawks loss.
"Every game's really a lesson at the moment for our young guys when they've only played a handful of games," Hayes said.
"I was on the end of a couple of big losses early in my career and it's just the way it goes sometimes.
"Guys like Jack Billings and Blake Acres did a few nice things today and they're going to be at least 10-year players for the club.
"There's going to be ups and downs, but you wouldn't like them to be as severe as today.
"It's probably only the Adelaide game, this game and the first half of last week against Brisbane that we've really let ourselves down.
"So we've got to minimise those sort of efforts and get better."
The Saints now have a break until Wednesday, which Hayes said would be used to get mentally ready to bounce back against Carlton on Monday week.
"We've got a couple of days off so we'll just recover and rest and then come back in on Wednesday and be up and about and ready to go," Hayes said.
"We've just got to put everything into our preparation, that's what we'll talk about.
"We'll obviously review the game early in the week, but after these sort of losses you've got to move on pretty quickly.
"The beauty of footy is you've got another game next week."